In Upper Nilgiri wetlands, an endangered and endemic swamp grass Eriochrysis rangacharii (Fischer), restricted to the upper montane region of the Nilgiri plateau in southern India and recorded as “Presumed Extinct” for over 100 years in the Red Data Book of Indian Plants (Nayar & Sastry 1987). Eriochrysis rangacharii was recently rediscovered because it has been used in the traditional housing material of the Todas, a small pastoral community of ca. 1,000 people. It would be very important to conserve the wetlands for Todas cultural perspectives.
We recovered and identified 15 tree species, 10 shrubs, 8 lianas and 2 herbs were found among the tea plantation. Natural regeneration of shola species assisted to restore the shola habitat. These shola species were early-successional species and growing under the tea bush for protects the open sunlight and frost. These shola seedlings are very sensitive to frost and are therefore eliminated from grasslands and open areas
The Toda people utilise numerous species of the plants for various rites of passage ceremonies. Since these plants are specified and cannot be substituted under any circumstance, scores of these species are required to flourish around each and every Toda hamlet. Besides, a number of specific plant species are used in the construction of their traditional structures. A number of plants have been given a degree of sanctity and can thus only be used by the priest or the ordinand E.g. Meliosma simplicifolia. Other plants have utilitarian roles like the fire sticks of Litsea wightiana. Todas have also used the flowering cycles of plants to denote the different seasons, the times of the day, the age of a person and even a person’s anxiety levels. The Todas like many other indigenous groups follow a system of taxonomy that is unique. We have made a list of some 250-plant species with their Toda names, but this is only part of their wide-ranging and impressive ethno botanical knowledge.
Almost 90 species of plants are endemic to the Upper Nilgiri Plateau. EBR has been instrumental in documenting and studying genera like Impatiens (Balsams), Arisaema (Cobra lilies), Habenaria (ground orchids) etc., Moreover, shola trees, grasses and herbs have been raised at the EBR nursery and planted in the field.
The study conducted that enumerated and preserved the sacred buffalo herds of the Todas. It gives special emphasis on the protection and preservation of all the animals of the area, including the Toda buffalo, which is a breed restricted to the Nilgiri district. Through this project, purchase of endemic Toda breeds buffaloes as a self-sustaining pool. The Toda men, who tend to this pool herd, earn their salary from the sale of milk. In case this is substantial, then some income could go towards sustaining this project as well.
The Upper Nilgiri Plateau in the southern Western Ghats is characterised by its unique shola-grassland ecosystem - patches of stunted evergreen montane forests, that nestle in the moist hollows of folds between undulating grassy downs. The Nilgiris is home to a number of endangered mammals such as the Nilgiri tahr and the Nilgiri marten. But it is in the abundance of flora that this global biodiversity hotspot enjoys a unique position in the entire Western Ghats. Almost 90 species of plants are endemic to the Upper Nilgiri Plateau. EBR is involved in the process of shola grassland regeneration and restoration.
Tigers are finally making a comeback in the Upper Nilgiri Plateau of South India. The Indigenous Toda people continue to treat the tiger as a divine figure that is capable to meting justice in case their sacred rituals are not adhered to. Otherwise the tiger remains a protector of these people and their culture. As a consequence of the increasing tiger population, they are preying upon Toda buffaloes on a large scale. Unlike other groups who resort to poisoning of cattle carcasses, the Todas never do so. We need to ensure that this attitude does not change and the obvious way to do so is by compensating these people for their losses speedily. The government process of compensation is often protracted. EBR project is undergoing to enumerate areas of existing tiger population and to identify and redress zones of potential man-tiger conflict in the Upper Nilgiris.More Links
Indigenous Toda people employed at the EBR field site
Sacred buffaloes purchased for different clans
Set-up a buffalo pool for speedy compensation for animals preyed upon by resident tigers.
Medical assistance to numerous Toda peoples
Maintenance of traditional Toda barrel-vaulted houses