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Thread: Angels in Tigerland (Padmanabha)

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    Angels in Tigerland (Padmanabha)

    Angels in Tigerland

    - Padmanabha

    Amazing! That was the first ever video footage titled “Angels in Tiger land” on Travancore Evening Brown butterfly and its life cycle!!
    No wonder the film won the best cinematography award in the wildlife and environment film festival CMS Vatavaran-2007 Delhi. Kudos to Suresh Elamon the man behind the meticulous documentation!

    In an interview Suresh talks about his penchant for the frozen frames, and how he ventured into the field of Nature Photography and Feathered friends.

    His father Krishna Elamon, an alumnus of Santhiniketan, is a remarkable personality in the film industry of yester generation. He stoked Suresh talent. “However, it was my association with Prof: K K Neelakantan, renowned ornithologist Kerala has ever produced, that changed the course of my life. He was my teacher at the university college. I developed an acquaintance with him. I still remember those days when we set off to Koondalkkulam Village Heronry near Tirunelveli in my brother’s Vijay scooter early in the morning and return the same day after some hours of wonderful bird watching and unbearable summer heat! ,” Suresh reminisced.

    Butterflies are notable for their unusual life cycle. The larva, inactive pupa, followed by the spectacular metamorphosis into a colourful winged adult form, the brightly coloured wings and their graceful flight have always created awe.

    It was Induchoodan who triggered my enthusiasm. Little information was available on them then. Wynter Blyth has published a book in 1950 which is out of print. Induchudan presented his copy to me. I consider it as the precious gift ever received.

    Once N V Krishan Warrier wrote an article on butterflies in his weekly column and commented that it was a pity that there was no literature on butterflies in Malayalam. I immediately wrote to him and soon a series of illustrated articles on the butterflies of Kerala got published. I could also coin Malayalam nomenclature for many species.

    Then I wrote a play titled “ Chithrasalbhangal” for KSSP which received the State Government Science & Environment Award for Science Books 1988 and first Balasahitya Award 1990. Suresh is happy that butterfly watching has of late caught up with young enthusiasts just like bird watching. This is quite a good sign. It is encouraging to note that many schools in the state have volunteered to set up butterfly gardens in their compound.

    Travancore Evening Brown is a very elusive butterfly endemic to Western Ghats and for decades it was thought to be extinct. During my photo-documentation (for the Kerala Forest Department) on the Butterflies of Periyar Tiger Reserve in 1992, one of my ambitions was to rediscover this species. As luck would have it, I could spot two specimens of this legendary butterfly from a reed forest very close to Periyar. Now butterfly enthusiasts could spot this in other places also.

    Suresh cherished the expensive dream to try his hand at wildlife filming. But with the advent of modern digital camcorders things started changing.

    "Twelve years ago I worked as a field consultant for BBC on Western Ghats titled “Monsoon Forests”. That was a revelation! I could experience how veteran wildlife cameramen working in the field. I also worked with another team on Thattekad Bird Sanctuary to film the unique nesting habits of the Rufous Woodpecker for David Attenborough’s Life of Birds series. All these gave me immense opportunity to learn a few ‘tricks of the trade’. So around 2000 I bought a digital camcorder that was ideal for wildlife filming. That was a complete switching over from still to moving images.

    In 2001 my bird watcher friend Mr.Eldhose of Thattekad, spotted a nest of Srilankan Frogmouth, a very secretive bird of our forests. A rare sight! So we decided to film it. The nest was on a small branch of a teak tree about 40 feet above the ground. We put up a steel scaffolding. From a hide atop we filmed some sequences of the Frogmouth incubating, parent and young one sitting together for the first time in India. Later I made a 13 minute film out of it “In Quest of the Frogmouth’s Nest”. This is was a finalist in the BBC WILDSCREEN 2002 Film Festival. I had the great opportunity of attending the week long film festival at Bristol and meeting great personalities like David Attenborough, Prof E O Wilson, etc.

    Angels in Tigerland

    Periyar Tiger Reserve houses Tiger, Asian Elephant, Leopard, Wild Dog, Guar, Sambar, Nilgiri Langur, Liontailed Macaque, Giant Flying Squirrel, etc. It is a sanctuary of hundreds of butterfly species. More than three-fourth of the total 334 species so far recorded from southern India are found here.

    The film is an exciting excursion into the interesting and colourful world of butterflies, a brief biology including the complete metamorphosis of the largest butterfly in India, the Southern Birdwing (Troides minos) with stunning visuals.

    The varieties of predation, in extra-ordinary close-ups, visuals of parasitoid larvae emerging out of the live body of a caterpillar, the relationship between certain ants and the ‘honeydew’ producing caterpillars of the Lycenidae family are awesome.

    ‘Mud-puddling’ behaviour Blue Mormon, Cruiser, Malabar Raven, Spot Swordtail, Fivebar Swordtail, Paris Peacock are vividly shown. The behavior of Indian Fritillary, Common Nawab, Southern Duffer, Angled Pierrot, Yam butterfly, Chestnut Angle, imbibing nutrients from animal scats, the trick employed by the Chestnut Bob to suck up nutrients from a dry bird dropping are shown with brilliant macro shots.

    The film concludes with the first ever video footage of the extremely rare and legendary butterfly of the Indian subcontinent TRAVANCORE EVENING BROWN (Parantirrohea marshalli).

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    Any wild life enthusisats?

    You can contact Suresh Elamon at

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