Western Ghats and the Perennial Biodiversity in Goa
Each one of us have often read or heard about India’s vast and unique ecosystem comprising several peculiar plants, trees, and animals. But very few of us are aware of the fact that India has mega biodiversity and hosts 4 of the major biodiversity hotspots in the world – the Himalayas, the Indo-Burma region, Sundaland and Nicobar Islands, and the Western Ghats.
Do you know which of these four is the oldest? The one that has seen impressive evolution, including that of a man? It’s none other than the long chain of rolling hills known as the Western Ghats that stretch from Western India to Southern India along the west coast. How old are they? 150 million years old; they actually witnessed the Himalayas form and grow into the highest mountains on this planet! They became a part of the west coast of India some 80 to 100 million years ago when they broke away from Madagascar and the Gondwana supercontinent.
Spread over an impressive 160,000 square kilometers, this mountain range covers just under 6 percent of the total land area of the country. These hills run parallel to the seashore overlooking the vast Arabian Sea and are located approximately 30 to 50 kilometers inland. They have a perennial biodiversity of ecosystems that vary from dense, lush green tropical evergreen to deciduous vegetation and montane grasslands. The region is home to over one third of all plants, mammals, fish, birds, and herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles) species found in India. Hence, this mountain range is fondly named as the Great Escarpment of India and considered as the World’s ten hottest biodiversity hotspots.
What makes these hills unique?
Well, if their age and the diverse ecosystems they hold hasn’t impressed you yet, there are several more aspects of the Western Ghats that will surely leave you spellbound. Around 67 percent of fish and 50 percent of amphibian species existing in India are endemic to this stretch of evergreen. More than 5000 species of flowering plants, 500 birds, 140 mammals and 180 amphibian species of the world occur in the Western Ghats out of which, 325 are globally recognized as threatened species; 129 Vulnerable (VU), 145 Endangered (EN), and 51 Critically Endangered (CR).
More than 40 wildlife sanctuaries and national parks established all along the Western Ghats in Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala for the preservation of flora and fauna have been declared as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, subsequently making the entire mountain range a UNESCO Heritage Site. The splendid assemblage of large mammals in the Western Ghats includes fabulous and magnificent creatures like the Asian Elephant, lion-tailed macaque, sambhar, Nilgiri tahr, Gaur, sloth bear, and tiger.
Fun Fact: The rolling hills of Western Ghats host almost 30 percent of the world’s total population of Asian Elephants and approximately 17 percent of that of Tigers – one of the most marvelous big cats.
Why is the biodiversity of this region considered Perennial?
Perennial means throughout the year or all year long. The Western Ghats are known to have a perennial biodiversity because no matter when you visit these lush green hills and their rainforests, you will come across interesting flora and fauna. Based on the season, one can indulge in various activities that are dedicated to the observation of certain wild creatures or birds. For example, just like the Alphonso Mango is ripe in the summers and its taste almost hypnotizes us, bird watching in the Western Ghats during winters is somewhat of a similar experience!
Monsoons are optimal for travelers, wildlife photographers, and nature lovers to see reptiles and amphibians out and about thriving in their habitat. The activity of these creatures increases when it rains and one can spot several unique animals, some endemic to the Western Ghats, that include the Malabar Tree Toad, Malabar Tree Frog, Hump-nose Pit Viper, Malabar Pit Viper and many more. The summers can be a bit humid as the region is a tropical rainforest as well as adjacent to the vast Arabian Sea. Night Safari is a wonderful experience that you can indulge in that offers the chance to see various nocturnal animals roaming the forests freely in the darkness of the night.
It has been observed that mammals become more active as the winter approaches. The Indian Pangolin, Giant Flying Squirrel, Asian Small-Clawed Otter, Slender Loris, and Mouse deer are some of the mammals that will welcome you to the Western Ghats. If you are lucky enough and follow all the rules explained by the guide during the safari, you might even come across the magnificent but shy Black Panther. Numerous birds have been spotted that are flying across states and countries as winter is the migration period for many of them. They often take a rest stop in the hills of the Western Ghats before continuing on their journey. Apart from the migratory birds, others like the Great Hornbill, Indian Nightjar, Spot-Bellied Eagle Owl, Malabar Trogon, and Sri Lankan Frogmouth are a few among many birds that you can spot in this region.
So, the next time you are seeking an adventure amidst nature, you should definitely plan a trip to the Western Ghats of Goa and mingle with the vibrant flora and fauna that flourish here! Because Goa is not just about the beaches or party hubs. It is a state that has so much more to offer! Take a dive into the ocean of wilderness in Goa this time. And be well assured, you are only going to ask for more!