Animal Instincts

JU News Desk
Published: October 2016

The Urban Lifestyle Series is on a mission to save the wildlife existing in urban areas

Words: Namratha A. Rai
Call it a favourite past time for some or an interest one has picked up, quick getaways to wildlife retreats and jungle resorts are popular with many. Watching the beauty of the sun’s rays through the trees or something scuttle or hop away, stopping to admire the beauty of life forms that we wouldn’t have otherwise noticed in the city, spotting a deer from a distance, the rustle of leaves and birds chirping can be enjoyable and relaxing. It’s not surprising then that people spend quite a fortune on wildlife holidays. But seldom are we able to fathom that there is wildlife around us and its significance in the urban set up.

Radio Active 90.4 Mz in association with Padma Ashok, Managing Trustee of Save Tiger First is trying to raise consciousness about the natural beauty and wilderness in urban locales. Ashok, hit up on the idea of starting the Urban Wildlife series in collaboration with the Community Radio Station. The idea of doing a ‘theme-based series’ came about after several interviews for Animal Instincts, a weekly show hosted by Padma Ashok. Urban Wildlife has, so far, aired three episodes – on birds, frogs and the slender loris.

There’s always so much to see if one takes a walk or a jog down Bengaluru’s urban forest patches in the night, be it joggers and cyclists to nocturnal birds besides the usual traffic. But if you pay close attention, you might hear an occasional shrill whistle and see a furry silhouette with eyes that shine as bright as a cat’s under a canopy in the trees – the eyes of a small nocturnal mammal – the Slender Loris.

The Slender Loris or Kaadu Paapa as it is known in Bengaluru has been a part of the landscape ever since the City was formed. Although it is a part of the urban wildlife today, very little is known about this animal.

These primates are found in Southern India and Sri Lanka. They have large round eyes, prominent ears, slender limbs, and claws on their fingers. The length of an adult’s body varies from 18 to 26 cm, and the total body weight from 85 to 350 gm.

They are arboreal and live in forests. One can find them in arid, semi-arid, deciduous, semi-deciduous scrub dry forests and tropical, sub-tropical, semi-evergreen wet and dry forests. Slender lorises are usually seen in trees such as acacia and tamarind-dominated forests or trees that have large vines or thorny plants like Ziziphus, or trees like the Eucalyptus or Gulmohar.  They sleep in canopy thickets of thorny plants, bushy climbers or leaves and use thick canopies for sleeping and hiding from predators.

animals-1It feeds on insects, shoots, fruits, vegetables, gum, leaves, flowers, eggs and small mammals, birds and reptiles. Its eating habits vary depending on the habitat and availability of food. Although, slender lorises are solitary foragers, at times adult males and females do hunt in pairs.

Adult lorises may live alone or in pairs. It breeds twice a year in the wild, from April to May and from October to November. In captivity, the slender loris breeds all year round. Females with infants form small groups.

Birds of prey like changeable hawks-eagles and large owls; orangutans and snakes are said to be predators of these mammals. Closer home, crows are often seen scaring the lorises. They are also endangered because of the destruction to their habitat and their use in traditional medicine.

Dr. M B Krishna, a well known Ornithologist, Mr. Seshadri K S, a field biologist currently studying about frogs and the team of Urban Slender Loris Project started by Dr. Kaberi Kar Gupta, Visiting Scientist, CES, IISc were interviewed for the three episodes that were aired on birds, frogs and the slender loris. Dr. Gupta, whose doctoral thesis was on the slender loris, was interviewed about the project and the animal to bring in the awareness about its ecological importance in an urban space.

The rest of the series on Urban Wildlife will cover the following animals – butterflies, ants, geckos (lizards), garden lizards and spiders. Although, many of the species are found in India, there are a few that are found only in Karnataka and in particular, Bengaluru. For instance, the arboreal ant that has its scientific name, Dilobocondyla bangalorica after Bangalore since it was discovered in 2006.