Forest department envisages creating canopy bridges for squirrel conservation

Grizzled giant squirrel at Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo: Special arrangement.

Kottayam: Not many know that 21 January is observed as the National Squirrel Appreciation Day in India. Meanwhile, the Kerala Forest Department is all set to flag off unique projects aimed to protect the squirrels and other wildlife here. The first stage would be to build canopy bridges in the forests in Kerala to ensure the safety of the squirrels that are on the verge of extinction. The forest department was inspired to roll out the project after the release of a documentary directed by Dr. G Prasad, Munnar Division Forest Officer and a native of Thiruvathukkal in order to create awareness about wildlife.

Interestingly, this documentary earned the Forest Department awards and laurels at the Satyajit Ray International Documentary and Short Film Festival. Earlier, canopy bridges were built at some spots, on an experimental basis, after it was noticed that many wild animals including the Indian Giant Squirrel were being crushed under the speeding vehicles in forest regions. The first such canopy bridge in the state was built at the Chinnar Wild Life Sanctuary.

A canopy for squirrels in Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo: Special arrangement.

The forest department has built canopy bridges using bamboo at the Marayoor – Udumalpetta Road for the grizzled giant squirrel and the grey langurs. The observation of the unique fauna based in Chinnar Wild Life Sanctuary and the research studies done by the environment and forests departments of both the centre and the state here actually helped in developing this project.

The canopy bridges are mostly built using dried twigs, bamboo, wild creepers, and rope. These are built specially to help wild animals like the Indian Giant Squirrel, monkeys, slender loris, Asian palm civet, and Malabar civet safely cross the roads without climbing down the trees. “The forest department sees the Indian Giant Squirrel as one of the most precious species that needs to be protected. Kerala had received two lions at the safari park in Neyyar from the Sakkarbaug Zoo in Gujarat in exchange of two Indian Giant Squirrels,” says D Jayaprasad, Chief Wild Life Warden. 

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