This photographer-couple will take you to the 'ground' realities in Munnar

Hardley Ranjith and his wife Seagal in their mission in Munnar

Munnar: This is a phenomenon that surfaces only during the monsoons and this photographer couple is making the most of its occurrence and conducting Herping tours for tourists this season. Herping is as much an adventure as hiking and snorkelling according to the Munnar-based Naturalist Hardley Ranjith and his wife Seagal. Herp is the insider's term for a creature that falls in the realm of herpetology, the study of reptiles and amphibians. If you go looking for these creatures, the act is called “herping,” which comes from the Greek word for crawling.

If you accompany them with a microlens during this monsoon, they will introduce you to a world of reptiles in various shapes and sizes. You can watch everything from a galaxy frog which is considered as a globally endangered species, baby viper, meowing night frog to a bush frog which is a white-spotted bush frog (Raorchestes chalazodes), less than 25mm in length, which was rediscovered in 2003 in the Western Ghats Mountain range after being presumed extinct for over 100 years.

It is recommended to wear sturdy gloves, long sleeves and boots while looking for creatures, and avoid handling them as much as possible. Also, leave all of these creatures in their homes. They’re much happier in their habitat! Bring a camera to record the creatures you find, a sturdy stick to overturn rocks and logs, a cell phone in case of emergencies and a buddy. Don’t go into the wilderness alone! You will spot snakes (the best way to identify a snake is by snapping a quick photo and then examining and comparing it to a field guide at your leisure), turtles, frogs, etc.

These tiny reptiles or amphibians can be spotted from June till October. Post monsoons, most of these creatures go into long hibernation, therefore, making it difficult to continue with Herping. Having said that even during the summer you can spot such amphibians in Munnar.

Herping usually happens between 7 pm and 10 pm at cardamom estates and forest areas in Munnar. It was from 2016 that the state-certified guide Hardley started Herping. Hardley has constructed two ponds at Windermere Estate to restore the habitat of critically endangered frog species called the Racophorus pseudomalabaricus or Anaimalai flying frog. This flying frog is also known as the False Malabar Gliding Frog, this species is usually larger than bush frogs: the female can grow up to three inches.

Mating takes place usually between June and October, during the rainy season. The female creates foam nests on leaves, into which the eggs are laid and the male fertilises them. The outer layer of foam protects the eggs from bacteria, predators, and weather changes. When the eggs hatch, the nest disintegrates, and tadpoles drop into the water body below.

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