Biodiversity Importance

DSF’s Biodiversity Initiative in India

Within the biological hotspot known as the “Western Ghats and Sri Lanka,” exists one particular region of enormous biological endemism, much of it as yet unanalyzed in full, spanning parts of Western Tamil Nadu and Eastern Kerala. While nearly 15% of the overall hotspot enjoys some form of designated protected area (*1), there remains much to understand, and more to preserve in these globally unique montane rainforests and among the indigenous people who live there — particularly the Todas, one of the last largely vegetarian tribes anywhere in existence.

Frog in IndiaEBR or the Edhkwehlynawd Botanical Refuge (the “place from which a beautiful view is to be seen,” in the Toda, pre-Dravidian, language of Ahl) is a small parcel of private Trust land within this hotspot that harbors an educational and working scientific platform of great ecological and cultural importance. The EBR Trust was founded by Dr. Tarun Chhabra, an accomplished ecologist and a botanical specialist. Dr. Chhabra is one of the only people in the world, other than the Todas themselves, who speaks Ahl. With his associates, including the outstanding environmentalist Rami Singh, EBR has focused on helping the Toda to protect their traditional habitat, sustenance, agricultural gathering, and continue annual migrations with their sacred and endemic breed of buffalo. The fewer than 1,500 remaining Todas leave perhaps the lowest ecological footprint of any humans on earth (with the exception of Jain monks). Their knowledge of this hotspot goes back thousands of years, and their near universal vegetarianism and worship of buffalo and of nature, reveal a unique window on the human spirit and offer the hope of human sustainable communities in harmony with nature.

Toda water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) are a vanishing breed, one of eighteen River buffalo breeds in South Asia.

According to recent data (*2) the Toda buffalo separated genetically from all others between 1800 and 2700 years ago. Without the Todas’ love for this gentle creature and for the shola mixed forest-grassland ecosystems upon which they depend, this animal and Toda culture itself would go extinct.

The EBR/Dancing Star Foundation Biodiversity Initiative is committed to documenting the Toda’s biologically remarkable habitat, and supporting local ecological restoration, study and replanting of native species and recording the tribal relationship with nature that harbors an ideal and blueprint for the future of human life on earth. A new joint EBR/DSF research expedition to fill in some biodiversity gaps within the greater Nilgiris Biosphere Preserve is being planned for the near future.

1) Ajith Kumar, Rohan Pethiyagoda and Divya Mudappa, in Mittermeier,, Hotspots Revisited, Cemex, 2004.

2) S. Kumar,, “Genetic variation and relationships among eight Indian riverine buffalo breeds,” Molecular Ecology, Vol. 15, March 2006, p.593.

For more information:

> Edhkwehlynawd Botanical Refuge (EBR)

> MacArthur Foundation, India

> Family Planning Association, India

> Temples of Pushkar

Comments Off

Comments are closed.