BENGALURU: While many are busy protecting bigger animals, TheGreenHoppers decided to turn their attention to the smaller, lesser-cared for snakes and frogs.
“They are bioindicators, the first to get affected if there is any imbalance in air, water and soil,” says Suhas Premkumar, founder of the group, on their importance in maintaining the ecosystem. “The regions that see high levels of pollution in air, water and soil see less population of reptiles and amphibians.”
The group was formed eight months ago with Manjunath Muniyarrappa, Skanda Kumar, Shishir Hemanth, Ganesh Reddy and Sneha Kumari, along with Suhas.
“I had returned from my trip from Kudremukh National Park one year ago with a heavy heart after witnessing a number of road-kills (mostly of snakes and frogs). I got in touch with a few people and shared my experience and everyone wanted to be part of the group, which was formed for a cause for the little known,” says Suhas.
Manjunath Muniyarrappa, a certified eco-volunteer, once wanted to be a successful techie. Later, he realised ‘0’ and ‘1’ are not meant for him and discovered his interest in wildlife and photography. Manjunath became a professional wedding photographer by late 2015 and then joined TheGreenHoppers.
Skanda Kumar began his photography career four years ago and plans to become a naturalist in the days to come. Also part of Bangalore Wildlife Photographers' Club, once on an expedition to Nagarhole National Park, he witnessed a deer eating a handkerchief. “Since that very moment, I started to work towards conservation,” he says.
The passion for these animals has led them to attempt a documentary Little Planet — Tale of The Lesser Known. “The project is informational. The film should help people understand these reptiles and amphibians, and their importance in conservation,” says Suhas, who was born in the foothills of Western Ghats — in a town called Shikaripura in Shivamogga district — which saw tree frogs, toads, snakes, insects in abundance during the monsoons.
Spotting snakes and frogs is not easy, he says. “Getting their natural behaviour on film had to be done ethically — without disturbing them. We also need to set aside a lot of time for this. Obtaining permits from government authorities to venture into the Western Ghats is a totally different challenge. However, we’ve managed to pull some strings and finally got our hands on these permits,” he says.
The team is looking to raise funds for the documentary.
Suhas developed his interest in snakes during his childhood, when he helped his mother collect frogs and big beetles from home and leave them outside. But then he saw a snake charmer kill a snake when it entered his home instead of rescuing it. “That moment I decided to save those creatures myself. I watched documentaries on snakes and started to gather information about them. I also took lessons from Snake Shyam, a snake charmer from Mysuru who rescues snakes. He was my first inspiration,” he says.
Suhas’ first rescue was in 2001 in Mysuru, two years after the snake was killed at his house. Since that day, the naturalist and certified eco-volunteer from the forest Department of Karnataka has rescued about 3,000 snakes in Mysuru and Bengaluru. He has also received four awards from National Geographic for three of his images. As a group, they give talks in schools, colleges and apartments through SoulScope, an organization run by Suhas.
His encounter with a yellow bush frog remains special to him.
“It’s called The Jewel Of the Western Ghats. A golden body studded with blue sapphire,” says Suhas. “It was a long night trail in Sharavarhi Wildlife Sanctuary near my friend’s house and we were almost exhausted. All we could hear was the calls of it — Tirrr-tick-tick-tick-tick…! When we were about to leave, a yellow coloured frog hopped and landed onto my head-torch. It then landed on my rain jacket.”