Bengaluru, concrete jungle, has its wild side, too

Photo by Alex Pyron
The loris is growing slender in number. Photo by Alex Pyron

By Shravan Regret Iyer

Located in southern India on the Deccan Plateau at a height of about 3,000 feet above sea level, this city on elevated land may have become an urban jungle, but it is also thriving with wildlife. It may now be one of the most densely populated (with humans) cities in the world, but Silicon City still has its wild side, too – as home to an astonishing range of nocturnal and diurnal species of animals and plants. But where are they all hiding?

The flying fox, or the Greater Indian Fruit Bat, has been a resident of the Garden City since long. There are still four flying fox colonies – near Sankey tank, in Basavanagudi, inside the IISc campus and in the HAL area. A single roosting site can have thousands of these nocturnal creatures. They fly over 30 kilometres in search of food and are good pollinators and seed dispensers, which is why they are called “farmers of the city”.

Dung beetles, one of the most decomposers in the ecosystem, are also found in the city. Found largely in Lal Bagh and Cubbon Park, they bury their dung in the soil and help restore its fertility by returning organic matter and nutrients to it.

While these wild species are sighted often, one that makes only ‘guest appearances’ is the Indian Pangolin. A critically endangered species listed in the IUCN Red list, these scaly ant-eaters have been sighted and rescued in places like Kengeri and Chandapura.

Their prey – the ants – of course, are abundant. The IISc campus is home to some 70 species of ants, and they can be seen in the Insect Museum at the Centre for Ecological Sciences. Then there is the Slender Loris, a nocturnal species called ‘Kaadu Papa’ in Kannada, which too is now an endangered animal.

Photo by Srikaanth Sekar
Photo by Srikaanth Sekar

But when we say wildlife, it’s the big cats that come to mind first, right? Well, the big cats, too, live in the outskirts. The recent high drama of the leopard that showed up at Vibgyor High School on Varthur Road is proof enough. Why, even a wild tiger made a surprise appearance in Bannerghatta, a first zoo authorities said, adding that it probably came from the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.

The city is also home to a variety of snakes (rat snake, Indian Cobra, common krait, wolf snake, Russell’s Viper, and many others) and 17 species of frogs, including Jerdon’s bull-frog and Indian bull frog, the large aquatic species that used to be dissected in the college zoology lab.

Bengaluru, believe it or not, is home to 340 species of birds, 160 species of butterflies, 40 species of mammals, 38 species of reptiles, 16 species of amphibians, and 41 species of fish.

If you haven’t been lucky enough to have seen any of these, you will have at least seen the honey bee. Honey bees have learnt to build their hives on concrete structures. Did you know they are classified under the wildlife protection act and using pesticides to kill them is a criminal offence?!


This story was originally published in Deccan Chronicle May 8, 2016, edition.