Kerala's amazing wildlife

Posted in Guest experiences on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019

An attraction of a Village Ways holiday on the Goodearth houseboat is that you have time to admire and watch the local wildlife as you cruise leisurely through the Kerala backwaters. The backwaters form a network of waterways and secluded, meandering channels, interspersed by low-lying islands. The lower backwaters have a unique ecosystem, affected by the mixing of freshwater inflows from the rivers and the tidal incursions of seawater.
There is a rich birdlife and a diversity of aquatic fauna and flora, changing with the seasons in response to variations in the salinity of the water. Many species are endemic to Kerala. Lake Vembanad and its surrounding backwaters, just upstream of Chenganda where Goodearth moors, are designated a wetland site of international importance under the ‘Ramsar Convention’. Government policies aim at encouraging community management of the ecology.
There are many unique species of aquatic life, including crabs and frogs, and there have been many sightings of the elusive and endangered smooth-coated otter (Lutra perspicillata).

Diverse Bird Life

The backwaters are an ornithologist's paradise, Some 190 bird species have been recorded around Lake Venbanad. Common birds are Woodpeckers, Brahminy Kites, White-throated Kingfishers, Fish Eagles, Serpent Eagles, Squako Herons, Coucals, Cranes, Cormorants, Darters, Pelicans, Waterhens, Cuckoo Drongos, Tree Pies and Parrots. The area is a favourite haunt of migratory birds like the Siberian Storks and Teal (the best season for migratory birds is November to February). There are important bird sanctuaries nearby at Kumarakum and the Salim Ali Sanctuary at Thattakad.

Flourishing Aquatic Life

Fish, crustaceans and molluscs abound in the brackish waters. Some 58 species of fish have been recorded and the mangrove swamps act as nurseries for fish and prawns. Bi-valve molluscs, such as the green mussel (Perna viridis) are harvested by the communities. Brackish water shrimps (Penaeus indicus) are caught in the lagoons.
A checklist of Amphibians is available from the Mhadei Research Center on as a free download.

Diversity of Insects

Insects abound along the backwaters. Indeed, due to the rich biodiversity of magnificent Damselflies and Dragonflies, the backwaters could well be deemed as the 'Dragonfly Park' of India. The dominant Damselflies are Ceriagnon coromandelianum, Agriocnemis pygmaea and Agriocnemis keralaensis. Among the dragonflies, the Common Picture Wing (Rhyohemis variegate) is the most abundant and impressive.
Some 34 species of butterflies have been recorded. Rare and endangered species, like the Southern Birdwing, Crimson Rose and Common Silverline, can be seen in good numbers. The Southern Birdwing, with a wingspan of 140-190 mm, is the largest butterfly in India.

Whatever your level of interest, there is always something rare and beautiful to admire in the Backwaters.

Keith Virgo

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