The Western Ghats is truly wondrous. Filled with mountains that run along India’s west coast, it’s one of the most biodiverse regions on earth. One third of the country’s amphibians, birds and flowering plants make their homes in its snowy peaks, tropical rainforests, wetlands and wildflower meadows. Many are evolutionarily unique – which is why the Western Ghats is also an EDGE Zone.
Besides bursting with wildlife, the Western Ghats is one of the most densely populated parts of India. In districts like Valparai people live side by side with Indian elephants. Close encounters aren’t unusual. They’re also unsurprising when you consider that the Western Ghats has lost more than 80% of its natural vegetation in the past 100 years. And while 10% of the region is formally set aside for conservation, you can’t tell wild species where to roam! Many naturally wander beyond protected areas into neighbouring plantations, gardens, shops and across roads.
Of course, there’s a great need to restore natural ecosystems and to use the land in a more sustainable, wildlife-friendly way. There’s also a lot to be learned from the people and wildlife who coexist in the Western Ghats.
As storytellers and scientists, we wanted to give everyone the chance to experience the Western Ghats, its diverse inhabitants and the issues they deal with every day. We did this using a variety of approaches, including some less traditional ones, like our mobile game and our hackathon. At the same time, it was important to us to assist conservation efforts on the ground.
Save The Purple Frog is a fast-moving mobile game based on our weirdly wonderful purple frog, a species only found in the Western Ghats. Players have fun dodging real-life dangers that it faces — pouncing snakes, hungry owls, cars, trains and logging trucks — as they hop to the breeding ground. Throughout the game, they learn fun facts about the region, biodiversity and purple frogs. The game is free and available at the App Store or on Google Play.
In partnership with Indian documentary maker Nature in Focus, we created a miniseries that shares stories of incredible EDGE inhabitants and the crucial and magical habitats of the Western Ghats. Each of these pacy YouTube episodes introduces viewers to extraordinary survivors, who have been around for eons, as they struggle to adapt to today’s fast-changing world.
Earlier in 2022, our partner Bright Tide held a ‘hackathon’ to help support our Western Ghats campaign. Professionals from around the world came together virtually to brainstorm new technology and ideas that addressed specific conservation challenges in the region. We intend to develop many of the ideas that are feasible on our own or with partners.
One that’s already in progress is the elephant tracker app. It’s been designed to keep people and animals safe by alerting users to elephants that are close by, based on their own, and the elephants’ real time locations.
Nature Conservation Foundation – On the ground we’ve partnered with leading Indian wildlife conservation and research organization, Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), which has been working in the Western Ghats for 20 years. Our three-year grant will allow NCF to expand knowledge of EDGE species and other understudied biodiverse groups within, and outside, protected areas across the Western Ghats.
National Centre for Biological Sciences – The grant to our second on-the-ground partner National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) also draws attention to EDGE species and kick-starts the working lives of early career Indian conservationists. Over two years, six recent NCBS graduates will study six overlooked species.
We will continue supporting the Western Ghats and this vital conservation work even as we broaden our focus to other EDGE Zones.
Next up: East Africa. Watch this space for updates...