After trekkers, birdwatchers, and wildlife photographers, a new breed of nature lovers, though with a lesser fancy name, are finding the hillocks of Munnar irresistible – herpetologists. According to the tour operators in the region, takers for herping tours have increased over the years.
The wild side of Idukki and Munnar are famous for tigers, tahrs and other wild animals; but it is equally known for a variety of frogs and reptiles. There is a gradual shift of focus from these big animals to the smaller ones.
Herping tours have become a new way to promote the destination and they have also helped to raise awareness about amphibians or reptiles, which comprise a big part of the ecosystem, says Sebinster Francis, a nature lover who organises tours across Kerala and other parts of the country.
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Though these tours are opted mostly by serious herpetologists or curious shutterbugs, they have allowed nature lovers to identify and mark territories of these secondary consumers in many food chains and protect them. At times, herping enthusiasts manage to spot some rare treasures from the world of butterflies, dragonflies or damselflies and other insects from the order of Odonata (of carnivorous insects). What is wooing students and scholars into herping is a well-known secret -- the thrill of finding a new species.
People are also taking up herping tours to meet their fears face to face, as most of the reptiles and amphibians are the main source of phobias among commoners. This is a positive development for zoology and ecosystem as there has been a massive decrease in the population of these small creatures, especially amphibians, in the last two decades.
Here are some macros and videos to inspire you to try out herping.
Photos: Sebinster Francis & Praveen G. Nair