Tag: Road kill

My wild dog diary

My wild dog diary

In the ten months I spent in Biligiriranga Hills, working with Gorukana, I hardly got good opportunities to watch wild dogs. Although I was in a location surrounded by forest, most of my wild dog sightings lasted only a few seconds. Only once, I considered myself very lucky when I got to watch a pack of wild dogs along the road with the pups playing for a few minutes before they ran back to the cover of the forest. This was around my last month at Gorukana.

pups at biligiriranga hills

The pups at Biligiriranga hills (March 2011)

Many guests I interacted with at Gorukana, felt wild dogs were somehow terrifying. They did not know how amazing the wild dogs were in their hunting strategy, behavior and natural history. We would screen Wild Dog Diaries for the guests and after that, their perception about them changed greatly. Instead of associating wild dogs with something crude and nasty, it changed to admiration.

In the Anamalai hills, I had few opportunities to observe wild dogs. The landscape was very different here. A mix of tea and coffee plantations and forest fragments. Spotting wild dogs was not easy except for a few fleeting glimpses once in a few months. It was nearly a year after I began work here that I got to watch them and as a bonus got some camera trap images as well.

Camera trap-Asiatic Wild Dog

Wild dogs feeding on gaur

Until the recent past I did not have much luck with wild dogs. I would hear stories of friends who watched them hunt and I felt jealous wishing I would get to see it someday too. Only recently my luck with wild dogs seems to have changed. Last week, I witnessed something very special. On 12 September 2013, thanks to Divya’s friend who informed her about a pack of wild dogs that had cornered a young sambar deer in the water in an estate nearby. Divya, Kalyan and Jegan decided to go see the wild dogs. I had reached office at the right time and joined them as they left.


Stream flowing through the coffee plantation

The wild dogs were at the far end of the stream, where it curved away into the coffee estate. We drove up to a point some distance away to watch them. One wild dog sat on a grassy patch, others were a little distance away.

 Wild Dog1_Ganesh Raghunathan_GAN3688

We backed up to the bridge to make space for a small truck to pass. It was from here that Divya spotted the sambar yearling standing in the water, alert, tail up, close to nearly vertical river bank, impossible to climb. The deer was scared, all escape routes cut off by the wall behind and the ring of wild dogs in front. The odds were against the deer today. What we had not realized till then was that we had positioned ourselves on the road watching the wild dogs, while the sambar was standing right below us.

 Wild Dog_Sambar deer_ Ganesh Raghunathan1_GAN3798

First glimpse

There was absolute silence for a while. The sambar started to stomp the water with its forefeet. Suddenly, a wild dog jumped in. The attack had begun. There was a mix of yelps, yowls and squeals from the yearling and the wild dogs. It seemed like the wild dogs were really excited.

 Wild Dog_Sambar deer_ Ganesh Raghunathan2_GAN3805 Wild Dog_Sambar deer_ Ganesh Raghunathan3_GAN3809 Wild Dog_Sambar deer_ Ganesh Raghunathan4_GAN3812

The deer tried to get away from the dog only to head towards the waiting pack with the dog in the water after it. Few more wild dogs joined in the attack, leaping in the water from the left bank.

By now, the wild dogs and the deer had moved out of sight, but we knew they were there. We could hear the deer screaming and the wild dogs whistling. Just then, we heard a loud bhauunkkk behind us. An adult sambar, probably the mother of the fawn, had emerged from the coffee bushes of the estate and was calling out in alarm. She saw us, gave out another alarm call and disappeared into the coffee from where the other sounds still emerged.Sambar_Running_Adult_Ganesh Raghunathan_GAN3822

The adult

The excited whistles continued. We knew it was all over for the yearling. We were tempted to get to a place from where we could watch it all. But we did not want to spook the wild dogs and spoil their meal. We waited for a while and then moved to a different spot from where we could watch them from a distance.

Three wild dogs were sitting, like sentries, a little distance away from the kill. They kept a sharp lookout for trouble while the rest of the family was busy feeding. The sentries took turns to feed. It seemed like there was a rule that a dog must keep watch at all times. Within minutes, the carcass was ripped apart. The whistles continued as the sentries kept vigil. The dogs took short breaks to drink water from the stream and returned to feed. By now, it had been an hour. We watched the wild dogs take pieces away and settle down a little distance away from the kill to enjoy their portion.


Sentries keeping watch

Now, a group of people came by and someone spotted the wild dogs, calling out excitedly to a few children who were a little distance away. Their repeated shouts seemed to disturb the wild dogs, as the pack split up and the animals dashed away into the cover of the coffee. We could see a few individuals far away.

What made the day very special for me is the amazing opportunity to watch a wild prey and predator and that too in a place where people and the wild dogs share the same space. The hunt had occurred in a coffee plantation by the side of a road that is used extensively by heavy vehicles.

Wild dogs_relaxing_GAN4187

Relaxing some distance away

The wild dogs knew exactly when they had to leave the place to avoid being disturbed. They had dashed off in different directions and then quickly reassembled at a place where they were at peace. It was an amazing day and I was glad that I had cancelled my plan to go to Coimbatore that afternoon and stayed back to see the wild dogs.

The next morning, I set off by bike to Coimbatore. My luck had not yet faded. I saw a pack of wild dogs again! This time the pack was crossing the road at the foothills. On my way back the next day, I was hoping for another sighting, but I was out of luck. Instead, I found a jackal that lay dead by the roadside, killed by a speeding vehicle. I would have been extremely thrilled had I seen one alive. The sight of the dead jackal brought me back to the sad reality. Many animals die on the roads to speeding vehicles. I am not saying it was anybody’s fault. Still, just as a precaution, it would be great if people driving the vehicles maintained a slow speed when they are in or near a forest area. Our journey would take a bit longer otherwise in our haste the animals journey would end right there.

Jackal Road Kill_IMG_9040

Out of sight, but Not out of mind

Out of sight, but Not out of mind

February 2013 wasn’t pleasant. It was filled with departure and demise of dear ones. It started with the death of an elephant. She was found in a stream after many days of her death. Fishes in that stream and maggots on her body were having a feast. We couldn’t really tell which herd she belonged to. Several speculations were made—she could have been unwell, or that she probably slipped while crossing the stream, and so on. In the government records her passing on was registered as a “natural death”. May be it was.

'Natural death'
‘Natural death’:Photo: Ganesh Raghunathan

This was followed by the death of a leopard. A very young leopard was found dead amidst tea bushes. Again, the reason for her death was not clear. It was presumed that she was killed in a territorial fight with another adult leopard. Traces of blood and drag-marks were all over the place. She was half eaten. She was taken away for a postmortem.

Yet another 'natural death'
Yet another ‘natural death’

Individuals like these will continue to live in the government records, in a researcher’s field notebook, technical reports, and as photographs or newspaper articles. But there are certain deaths that will go unnoticed, even by us, and no one may even be aware that it happened—like the roadkill of a mouse deer that I saw in mid February. The driver of the vehicle might be aware of that or he/she may simply have heard some noise, a thud, or a squelch and moved on. Or the driver may not have even known that he/she had killed a living being. Few passers-by like me, in the middle of that night, probably noticed that dead mouse deer, or probably did not.

Incidents like these make us feel sad for a few minutes, hours or sometimes may even last for a few days. We may or may not remember these again. Even if we do remember, we may not feel the same way as we did when we first saw it. But if we know the individuals, if we are attached to someone or something or some place, if we feel the connection even if it is only one-way, then, when we lose any of them, the sense of loss will haunt us forever. Because, we are not just losing them, we are also losing the connections we once had with them. This will be painful, like how we feel at the demise of a friendship or a relationship; much more painful than the physical death of a friend.

Few years ago, while passing through Kavarkal, Divya said,”I am missing that guy ya”. Across the valley on a hill, in a degraded grassland patch, near the electric pylon, we used to often see a tusker grazing peacefully. She was referring to him. Some months after that, somewhere near that place a tusker was found dead. Anand went and looked at the decaying body but was unable to recognize that individual. He doesn’t want to conclude that it was that guy we used to see there. Before that death, even if “our guy” wasn’t seen there, we knew that he would be have been roaming elsewhere. But after that death, that hope slowly faded away. Even now, whenever I happen to pass through that place my eyes involuntarily look in that direction, scanning, searching for him, and remember Divya’s sentiment.

Our guy - The tusker
Our guy – The tusker: Photo Divya Mudappa

Similarly, usually while heading back to Valparai from Coimbatore, we stop at Nalumukku Sungam for a cup of tea. Nearly a year ago, on one such occasion I noticed that something was missing there. Sridhar said in a shocked tone, ”Damn, they cut that tree”. There used to be a large tamarind tree in one of the corners of Nalumuku Sungam. On the ground, no trace of that tree can be seen now. I never paid much attention to that tree until it was cut and removed from that place. There is a large void now. That tree would have been planted at least several decades if not a century ago. I miss that tree now. Sridhar has been commuting through this route for over a decade and he would certainly miss seeing this tree more than me. I wonder if (and hope) there is someone who lives in that town, who went and stood under the tree for its shade, or grew up along with that tree, or harvested the fruits from that tree, feels the same way or fondly remembers that tree. Those people probably miss that tamarind tree more than any of us do.

Pollachi-Valparai SH78 road near Vedasandur from 2003-2012: Imagery courtesy Google Earth

Then, there used to be a huge log near the Selaliparai club. Two years ago, just before the NCF annual meeting in Valparai, I remember Divya mentioning in a sad tone that a huge Calophyllum tree has fallen. This was a large tree, one of those identified as a heritage tree by us in this landscape. I only vaguely remember seeing that tree when it was alive and standing majestically. But I am more familiar with that only as a Calophyllum log, with its deeply fissured bark and heavily laden with epiphytes—just as majestic and alive horizontal as it was when vertical. In late February, while driving past that place we saw a crane about to lift that log and take it away. Now without that log, that place wears a desolate look. In coming days or months or years, when we go that way, we are sure to tell this story to others with us or sigh with sadness amongst ourselves.

There used to be a Calophyllum log...
This is that Calophyllum log…

I feel personally connected to that tusker, the tamarind tree and the Calophyllum log because I liked them. I knew that the connection was one-way, but I still feel bad when I don’t see them in their spots. But what if someone reciprocated the affection which we gave but suddenly vanished from our lives? Obviously, the magnitude of loss will be immeasurable, and drive us to despair. I realized this when Baby disappeared.


Baby was Anand’s cat. When he moved to a different house, although close by, Baby moved to Divya & Sridhar’s place. She also made our office her home. I am not a cat person. To be honest I was not fond of pets at all, until I met Baby. She was an exceptionally friendly cat. I often felt that she was a talking cat. I loved the way she greeted me when she saw me for the first time everyday. It was not just me. She was friendly with everyone over here. She captivated us with her sheer friendliness. It was a great feeling when she came to me and mewed in the middle of the night or gently tapped me with her soft forepaw to signal that she was hungry or wanted to play. She always liked to be with people, among people. I had not taken care of her all her life. Only on a few occasions or few days when the others were away. But she had had a deep impact on me. I can imagine how the true cat lovers and caretakers—Anand and Divya—would have felt when she suddenly disappeared one night. Soon after she was missing, for many days they would call-out for her, with hope and prayers. It was unbearable to hear their voices. She never turned up. It was unlike her not to respond or stay away from home. Although Divya kind of knew the minute she had disappeared since she had heard some scuffling noise outside. Divya had the feeling after hearing the noise outside that our neighbourhood leopard had paid a visit to our doorstep. It is nice to know that he is still around, but wish the evidence had been something else. Or maybe not. We do not know exactly what happened to Baby, but I hate to think that she has passed on.

Baby’s disappearance made me think of certain other things which went out of my sight and my life. But they will be etched in my memory for a long time to come.

Roads, revetments, and restoration

Roads, revetments, and restoration

by divya and sridhar

In the last year or so, there has been a frenzied expansion of the road between Attakatti and Valparai—most of it through the protected area (Anamalai Tiger Reserve) and adjoining buffer zone in the Valparai plateau. Earth from the shoulders holding up tea bushes and trees has been gouged out to fill the gap between the current extent of the road and the culvert and revetments being built off it to expand this steep hill road. This road starts at about 400 m (Aliyar) and climbs to an altitude of 1480 m (Kavarkal) boasting of 40 hair-pin bends over 40 km!

The hill road to Valparai (Photo: Manish Chandi)
The hill road to Valparai (Photo: Manish Chandi)

After such work has begun, we have witnessed landslips—occurrences unheard of in these hills—in the last four years ever since there has been a push for attracting tourists. The solution is cement and granite! Remove plants and build metre-high revetments and culverts to prevent landslides and soil erosion! Never mind the hills in the plains with their great-horned owls and hedgehogs and foxes blasted and mined out of existence for the stones and granite to reinforce the mountains here that are older than the Himalaya. The plants have done their job for long enough and it is time we take on the responsibility is it? Do not let plants (even a tuft of grass) grow on these as they will corrode the man-made structures. The infrastructure the various departments aim to provide are good, wide roads. Speed breakers are not good for the modern cars. Never mind if a few monkeys or mongooses or deer get run over. Actually may be we should remove them, too, so that they will not interfere with the speed of the bikes and cars. The traffic on these hills have increased many fold as have the number of accidents due to reckless driving. While local people continue to struggle in crowded buses to reach their homes, we also now see motor rallies with convoys of speeding cars and bikes go through. Is this development? Is this what roads through such vitally important hills and forests are meant for?

The animals too have suffered. The arboreal mammals have to make huge leaps across the roads where the canopy connectivity is lost, or come down to the roads. The wall-like culverts on one side and the steep mud banks on the other prevent escape for the animals caught on the road. They fall prey to the wheels—resulting in countless road-kills.

Wide canopy gaps-a hurdle for canopy dwellers like the Lion-tailed Macaques
Wide canopy gaps-a hurdle for canopy dwellers like the Lion-tailed Macaques

All along this highway, we have lost the benign and beautiful fern- and impatiens-covered slopes to obnoxious weeds like lantana and others, due to the regular ‘maintenance’ work and chronic disturbance, including the indiscriminate slashing of all vegetation native or weedy. The roots of many large trees are exposed and are waiting to fall during the next monsoon. And of course the tree-falls would be good enough excuse to be rid of trees along the road. And thus the forest recedes.

Native ferns and impatiens lining the road
Native ferns and impatiens lining the road
Roads now lined with thorny invasive alien lantana and exposed soil
Roads now lined with thorny invasive alien lantana and exposed soil

Just last month, on February 14th, the road work struck a blow to our 6-year old restoration plot adjoining the Anamalai Tiger Reserve, in a private forest fragment belonging to Parry Agro. The site had been dug up using a JCB for expansion of the road and the mud and rocks dumped over the treelets and regenerating saplings in the plot. A third of the plot had been destroyed. The boards declaring it a restoration plot and carrying a plea not to cut trees, and even the fence marking the boundary, had not mattered. We were devastated.

Digging and dumping into the restoration plot.
Dug and dumped into the rainforest restoration plot.

However, the same evening that we had discovered this, we informed the management of the company and the Forest Department, and they decided to do a field check the next morning and stop any further construction activity over there. The next day was a long but ultimately heartening one. We had unstinting support both from the Range Forest Officer, Mr Lakshmanaswamy, and the Managers of Parry Agro (who own that land and partner with us in the restoration work). The contractor and engineers could be convinced of our arguments. The contractor, Mr. Jayaraman, has been very polite and understanding and has heeded to our request of not widening the road, but to stabilise it with a rock wall with no further extension. However, they are quite at a loss as to what changes they can make in the granted contract without destroying forests or being pulled up for not completing the contract.

Why are we in such a situation? It is probably because of the failure to distinguish roads going through forests (even private forests) from roads that pass through cultivated or built-up areas. It also represents the failure to treat roads in the hills, that receive higher rainfall, differently from roads in the plains and drier tracts. Finally, while extra care is taken when the road goes through private plantation areas and private property, little heed is paid to forests and forest vegetation (in private forests and protected areas) during road construction, widening, or ‘maintenance’.

At the restoration site, there was no need for a road wider than what exists here already—three 4-wheel vehicles can pass by each other comfortably. Do we need something more than that in the hills? Could not a simple roadside crash-guard be installed for safety of travelers? This would have meant little disturbance to vegetation and minimal obstruction for animal movement.

Crash-guards can be used for roads through forests
Crash-guards can be used for roads through forests

Such roads works are often carried out ostensibly to prevent soil erosion, when actually this part of the hills is probably one of the most stable and with good natural forest cover. But now, after the digging, if left the way it was, the road could cave in. Therefore, we had to let them build some support. Moreover, since all the soil has been just thrown over, they would need to either scrape the soil from the plot along with all our plants or dig up somewhere else. Is all this really necessary? Couldn’t we plan better? Can’t we live comfortably without destroying forests? Already, unnoticed by us, a 200-metre stretch of such destruction has been done lower down some distance from our restoration plot.

Road widened by clearing forest and building revetments.
Road widened by clearing forest vegetation and building revetments.

In the middle of our discussion with the road contractors and highways engineers, our motivation was pepped-up by the Great Hornbill that landed on a tree nearby. Everyone present there were thrilled to see it. And their support became even stronger.

Great Hornbill
Great Hornbill

Over the next two days, about ten people from the Nedunkundru Kadar settlement, who work with us on the restoration project, patiently and carefully rescued as many plants as possible smothered by the soil dump. Each one of them were carefully resurrected, provided support, and watered. Hope all their efforts will not be in vain and these plants will revive. I thank them all for their effort.

We are still monitoring the site everyday as the work is being completed and hopefully wrapped up. We hope that with this the destruction of the forests here by road works will end. Another 200 m length that had been planned is now probably and hopefully stalled.

Bridging the canopy gaps

Bridging the canopy gaps

On a fateful morning in June 2008, four lion-tailed macaques (LTM) including a pregnant female were found dead on the road.

A lion-tailed macaque killed on the road (Photo: Kalyan Varma).
Post-mortem of the pregnant LTM revealed this fetus (Photo: Kalyan Varma).

Within a month, yet another individual was a casualty on the same stretch of the road.

And another death on the highway (Photo: NCF).

There may have been multiple reasons for this sudden and unprecedented tragedy hitting a population of a 100-odd endangered macaques found in Puthuthottam, a rainforest fragment adjoining Valparai town in the Anamalai hills. With a push to attract tourists, the Highways Department has been widening the road and consequently the canopy gap has become wider. This is an obstacle for arboreal mammals and they now have to come down to the ground to cross the road. There has been a sharp increase in the number of tourists and the noiseless cars speeding down the 3 km road through the fragment. And, of course, because of the seemingly well-intentioned feeding of the macaques by people, the monkeys have become bolder and frequently hang out by the roadside.

The LTM are now forced to cross on the ground at risk from fast-moving vehicles on the widened road that lacks any speed breakers (Photo: NCF).
The LTM are now forced to cross on the ground at risk from fast-moving vehicles on the widened road that lacks any speed breakers (Photo: NCF).

Since it seemed that all these reasons were beyond our control, we decided to make some efforts to prevent future deaths. As a first step to tackle this problem, we employed an LTM watcher, Joseph, to keep an eye on the monkeys and the tourists. Soon, we had to employ one more watcher, Dharmaraj, as the 3 km long road passing through this fragment was too much to be patrolled by a single person. Together, their job was to ensure that the monkeys crossed the road as quickly as possible, that tourists were made aware of the monkeys when they were on the road and requested to drive slowly as well as not feed them. Jegan and Dina also conducted ‘LTM – watch’ programmes to build awareness and garner support of school children to protect these endangered monkeys.

LTM watch: Valparai students hold an awareness placard exhorting vehicles to go slow (Photo: NCF).
LTM watch: Valparai students hold an awareness placard exhorting vehicles to go slow (Photo: NCF).

The deaths of the monkeys had occurred despite the efforts of the Forest Department to put up half a dozen bamboo bridges from tree to tree across the road. This was acting on the advice of Dr Mewa Singh of the University of Mysore, and choosing locations identified by Anand and his team, based on their knowledge of the frequent crossing points over the road. These bamboo bridges, although useful, need to be renewed at least annually.

One LTM crosses on the bamboo bridge even as another looks for a crossing over tree branches in the background (Photo: NCF).

Even now, the roads are being widened and the canopy gap is widening, even as more and faster vehicles ply on the road. Speed breakers would really help reduce the risk of accidents both for people as well as monkeys and other mammals on these hill roads. Meanwhile, we needed a good solution to facilitate the crossing over the road by monkeys. In May 2010, during a visit to Borneo, we saw tarpaulin/canvas strips being used to build canopy bridges for the apes and other monkeys to cross the River Kinabatangan. We thought it would be a good idea to use such canopy bridges here, too. Although we believe that engineering solutions will not provide long-term redressal to ecological problems such as fragmentation and roadkills, it seemed the best option at the moment. At least these would last longer than the bamboo bridges.

With the help of our friends Kalyan Varma and Ganesh Ragunathan, we procured lengths of used fire hoses from Bangalore, as these seemed more durable, with rubber-lining inside and a canvas outside layer. We wove them into a bridge and replaced the decaying and breaking poles of bamboo that otherwise formed the bridges in two locations. They were installed on the trees across the road with the help of two of our field assistants, who are the best tree climbers and honey collectors—Ganesan from Erumaparai and Dinesh from Nedunkundru. We have had a long association with Ganesan since 1993 and Dinesh has been with us since 2000.

Installing the canopy bridge: Ganesan on the tree, with Dinesh (left) and Joseph (right) helping below.
Installing the canopy bridge: Ganesan on the tree, with Dinesh (left) and Joseph (right) helping below (Photo: Nisarg Prakash).

Within a day, we were gratified to see the monkeys comfortably negotiating these bridges to safely cross the road overhead.

A lion-tailed macaque crosses the road on the new canopy bridge.
A lion-tailed macaque crosses the road on the new canopy bridge (Photo: Kalyan Varma).

Although engineering solutions are not what we hope to have for all conservation problems, we will have to live with these for now. Hopefully, not too far into the future, the Highways and Forest Departments and the people visiting these areas will find it aesthetically pleasing to have large, native trees lining these roads, with branches overlapping over the road that double-up as natural canopy walkways for the monkeys and other arboreal mammals like giant squirrels and brown palm civets.

This post is a means to thank all those who have helped and are helping (particularly Ramki Sreenivasan, Cornelia Bertsch, Kalyan Varma, Ganesh Raghunathan, other friends, and the Forest Department) to keep these monkeys safe and as akin to their truly wild kin.

Why did the Chameleons cross the road?

Why did the Chameleons cross the road?

I was dozing away while sitting next to driver while travelling from Trichy to Valparai. We started about four in the morning and found it difficult to keep awake any more. The cab driver noticed this and politely asked few questions to avert my early morning sleep. It was about 8 in the morning and we were crossing a small wooded patch between Palani and Udumalaipettai. With my eyes half closed I was making attempts to answer the questions of the driver, when I suddenly noticed something familiar in the middle of the road. They were a pair of chameleons crossing the road. They were on the other half of the road and apparently crossed the white line dividing the two way highway. Being slow creatures, especially on the ground they had braved the heavy vehicular traffic to cross about 6 m of the approximately 10 metres wide busy road. It was the smooth tar road shining in the morning sun that enabled me to spot the unmistakable outline of the chameleon even at a speed of 60 kmph. We went past them and I shouted to the cab driver to stop and return to the spot.  He braked and then made a U-turn. We had to wait for some speeding vehicles to pass by. The wait seemed long and the vehicles never ending. I looked towards where I saw those chameleons. Now they resembled spots on the road and I could see them move. While I watched a speeding bus passed us and then ….splatttt…

We parked the car off the road and I rushed towards the chameleons with my camera. Contrary to my earlier apprehension, only one of them was killed while the other one was still alive. It lay still without much movement.


I can’t explain why it chose to stay in the same place without thinking of escape. Both appeared to be full grown chameleons. I don’t know how they were related to each other. Brothers? Sisters? Friends? Mates?  Whatever it may be, the live one was vulnerable to being run down by passing vehicles. Did it understand that threat? Was that why it was afraid to move from there? Or was it paranoid of moving ahead after seeing what had happened to the fellow traveller? Or was it too shocked to take the next step after seeing its companion’s fate? Or was it mourning over its partner’s death and didn’t want to part from it?  Or it was still waiting for the other one to get up and walk along with it? Which of the emotions ruled the chameleon’s mind at that moment, I don’t know. But all I could see was that it was not moving from there. While still taking pictures, I slowly approached them. It probably noticed my movement towards them and slowly turned away from the dead one. It seemed in a confused state of mind and couldn’t figure out which direction to go. Finally, it decided to cross the remaining few metres of the unfinished journey alone. As it moved away towards the other side of the road, it’s turned blacker and there was very less green or yellow. Anger or Sadness?

Time to part...
Time to part...

Though it moved, it was not fast enough to escape from the heavy rubber tyres passing every minute. Fearing another casualty, I tried to pick it up by its curled tail. As I touched its tail, it turned around and looked at me with its red mouth wide open and threatened me. It was as if to say ‘oh you human being, don’t you dare touch me’. I moved back. Just stood there and watched it go, only this time at a quicker pace. I looked at the dead chameleon for the last time and picked it up and put it in the bushes at the side of the road. I looked at either side of the highway. There were hillocks adorned with beautiful Umbrella thorn trees Acacia planifrons, thus indicating similar habitats on either side.  I don’t know what then led those two chameleons to cross the road. Only they know what their need was and what they will get on the other side.