by Dr Prateek Anand, Dr Raj Kumar Sharma and Dr Tarun Kumar Garg
Till today all our experiences with herps (which we identified as creepy crawlies) were filled with misconceptions and “stories” that have come down the ages in our lives. Today we saw these species in a different light and it all started with the session by Dr Abhijit Das, WII on tools and techniques used for research and management of reptiles and amphibian, from unidirectional acoustic recording to kestrels and even an endoscopic camera to visualise their secretive ( hidden) world. This was followed by a session on good practices to be followed for handling snakes.
With all this information flowing in rapidly and post a much needed tea break, we went into a session on field techniques for handling crocodiles with Dr Gowri Mallapur, Central Zoo Authority, with a demonstration and an exercise that familiarised us with the tools and the techniques. We got to jump on a crocodile…. Albeit a soft toy that was made to seem real throughout the exercise. Not only did we understand handling basics but also the importance of working as a team and depending upon your team mates.
This led into the session on handling Turtles (softshell turtles). We did basic handling, morphometry, physical examinations. Sites for injections and blood draw, marking individuals were demonstrated and we completed the exercise with capture marking and identification tools for birds. The mist net was demonstrated very well.
It was a quick breakfast and a short break and we went into a session with Dr Abhijit Das who spoke about species attributes of snakes and amphibians. The details of scale patterns, calls, the role they play as indicator species, opened up our minds to species we had not yet had the opportunity to understand or cross paths with.
After lunch and some more down time to beat the sweltering heat, the evening session was started off with a little more about elephants, care and management and then to see field techniques of physical capture using traps. Demonstartion of nest rescue, egg incubation was conducted by Dr Gowri and some people pitched in to hep locate and dig up the nest and collect the “eggs”, strangely resembling table tennis balls!. The message of roles these tools play in opening multi sectoral collaborations like veterinarians and field biologists working together to understand animal species was driven home!
The sun had set and it was time to head out with the tutors, to see some animals in the field. We went to a stream nearby and glimpsed into the world of amphibians and amphibian research along with some insight into the need and methodology of good documentation. We looked at a couple different species, their identification characteristics and how varied species of frogs can be differentiated… all in the light of the headlamps.
Our field trip ended with enjoying the sounds of the forest and pondering on the mysteries that were yet to be discovered.
We returned to a hot meal and called the day an end…but we do seem to “listen” for the croak of the frog or the chirp of the gecko.