CHENNAI: One of the locations we visited in Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary had the quaint name of Rosemala. The locals told us that the name was inspired by a British tea planter’s wife, who had many rose bushes in her garden. I partly believed the story, but was wondering whether it had been cooked up for our benefit! Talking of cooking, our stay at Rosemala almost got called off due to culinary difficulties. The forest rest house (FRH) that we were to stay at was new. To our surprise, the forest staff near Rosemala informed us that while we were welcome to stay at the FRH, there would be no utensils to cook in. This unexpected hurdle was finally overcome after an hour’s animated discussion in Malayam, in which we took no part. The forest staff provided us with some of their own vessels.
By the time we arrived at Rosemala, it was dark. The first thing Raju, our watcher, told us was that there was no water in the FRH. The water for Rosemala was piped from a stream two kilometres away. In the darkness, Raju spent an hour walking through the forest tracing the water pipe in an attempt to find out why we were not getting any water. The mystery was comically solved when we discovered the closed water cock. We opened the cock. Lo and behold, the water flowed!
My abiding memory of Rosemala is its tall trees. Occasionally, when we stood under these trees, small fruit and seeds rained down on us. This meant the presence of an extremely cute creature called the Malabar Giant Squirrel (Ratufa indica). This diurnal giant squirrel is up to three feet long. The squirrel almost exclusively lives up in the trees feeding on fruit and tender leaves. It drops fruits, seeds and young shoots, revealing its presence to the people below. The other way this squirrel announces itself is through its loud rattling call, which is easy to recognise.
This giant squirrel is found in the forested areas of peninsular India. Its colours vary significantly depending on the region it is found in. This makes people wonder whether these are different sub-species of the squirrel, or whether the same species has a lot of colour variation. Scientists are attempting to resolve this.
The squirrel lives on tall trees, hardly ever descending to the ground, making it easy to spot, but not easy to photograph. Fortunately, the squirrel settled on a tree branch just in front of the Rosemala FRH, and my son, Yash, managed to click a few photographs, just for you to get a glimpse of this magnificent squirrel.
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