The rusty-fronted barwing (Actinodura egertoni) is species of bird from the Leiotrichidae family and is found in the temperate forests and subtropical or tropical moist montane forests of Southeast Asian countries: Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, and Nepal. The elevation limit of the species ranges from 600 to 2,600 masl. Although the rusty-fronted barwing is listed as a species of least-concern by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, its population is reported to be decreasing.
Prickly blue poppy, or Meconopsis horridula, is a herbaceous plant from the Papaveraceae (poppy) family and has beautiful sky blue flowers with golden anthers. It is a species that has many variations in leaf structure and inflorescence. The plant is monocarpic, which means it produces one seed. It is distributed in Sikkim and also in Bhutan, China, and Nepal. It mostly grows in rocky areas, under rocky outcrops and grassy slopes at an elevation of 4,500–5,500 masl. The plant also has anti-inflammatory and analgesic qualities.
This herb-like orchid is Calanthe herbacea. It is a terrestrial orchid with yellowish green flowers and is found in humid and moist places in dense forests at an elevation of 1,500–2,100 masl. It is found in Sikkim but is also distributed in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya states of India and in other countries such as China, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. “Calanthe” means “beautiful flower” in Greek. Calanthe herbacea has received much attention among botanists and orchid lovers because of its attractive flowers. Using biotechnology and tissue culture, this beautiful orchid can be made commercially viable and economically beneficial, as this would also check the haphazard collection of the species from its natural habitat.
Primula denticulata, commonly called drumstick primula, is a flowering plant native to moist alpine regions of Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. This species grows flowers of many attractive shades and is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant. Its leaves are reported to have antioxidant and antibacterial properties. The chemical compounds present in the plant are known to be contact allergens.
Panicum italicum, commonly known as foxtail millet, is a well-known nutritious minor millet species from the HKH mountains. It is the most widely grown species of millet in Asia and the second-most cultivated species of millet globally. Foxtail millet is cultivated as a food crop in arid and semi-arid regions of Asia and Africa. It is known to have many nutritional and health benefits but remains under-utilized as a food source. In some developed countries, it is produced for bird feed.
The golden langur is named after the distinct colour of its fur. This species is endemic to western Assam, India, and southern Bhutan. Their habitat is restricted to the region surrounded by four geographical landmarks: the foothills of Bhutan (North), Manas river (East), Sankosh river (West), and Brahmaputra river (South). They live in the upper canopy of forests and are highly dependent on trees.
The golden langur is currently endangered as its current population is decreasing. Main threats to the species include electrocution by low-slung live wires, occasional poaching, and attacks by dogs. The population is now split into several small, isolated populations in fragmented forests and fringe villages.
The tree bean (Parkia timoriana) is an underutilized, nutritious, leguminous tree belonging to the legume family. It is distributed across northeast India and southeast Asian countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, and Malaysia. The tree bean is a characteristic feature of the Meitei home gardens in Assam, India and is grown and consumed widely in Manipur, Mizoram, and Nagaland.
This photograph was taken in the Hakha township of Chin State, Myanmar. Widely planted for food and wood, the tree grows up to 30 metres tall. The inflorescence or the flower head, as shown in the picture, dangles through a long flower stalk that can grow up to 45 cm. The flower head contains several flowers. The fruit of this tree is a long, flattened legume pod similar to the flat bean and contains up to 21 hard, black seeds. The flowers are pollinated by fruit bats that feed on the nectar. The wood of the tree is used as firewood and lumber and the fruit is a nutritious delicacy, fetching a good price in the market.
The Asian elephant is the only living species of the genus Elephas. They are distributed throughout the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia including Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. About a third of Asian elephants live in captivity. Asian elephants are smaller in size and have smaller ears compared to African elephants. Their diet includes grasses, leaves, roots, bark of trees, and bushes.
Their populations have declined by at least 50 percent over the last 60–75 years, causing it to be listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. They are primarily threatened by loss of habitat, habitat degradation, fragmentation, and poaching.
Commonly known as mistletoe, this plant is a highly specialized aerial flowering parasite. All mistletoes are strictly aerial parasites, some of them are hemiparasites (leafy) whereas others are holoparasites (without leaves). They extract nutrients or their food from the host plants through a special organ called haustorium. There are nearly 1,400 mistletoe species in the world, exclusively distributed within four families of flowering plants in the order Santalales. These species grow in diverse forest types – from tropical to upper cold temperate forests at an elevation of 3,000 masl. Mistletoes provide essential ecosystem services such as food, shelter, and breeding sites to a variety of animals, birds, and insects. They are an indicator of good forest health. In Nepal, mistletoes have been misunderstood as invasive and pest species. Although a parasitic plant, they have their own ecological functions in nature and contribute to ecosystem functioning as a part of natural plant communities. Their physiology is fascinating; for example, their succulent leaves enhance water storage and allow them to rehydrate before their hosts do.
Bhutan takin, locally known as “Drong Gyemtse”, is Bhutan’s national animal. The species is endemic to Bhutan. Prior to 2011, it was considered a subspecies (Budorcas taxicolor whitei) and has since been recognised as a separate species (Budorcas whitei). The other takin species are the golden takin (B. bedfordi) and Sichuan takin (B. tibetana) from China, and the Mishmi takin (B. taxicolor) in India.
The Bhutan takin migrate in small herds to alpine meadows as high as 5,000 masl during summer and in large groups to subtropical forests as low as 1,500 masl during winter. They are primarily found in Jigme Dorji National Park in the north-western part of the country.
Phallus indusiatus is commonly known as stinkhorn fungus or the veiled lady mushroom. In Nepal, we call it a “Jaali Chyaau” (जाली च्याउ). “Jaali” refers to a net. This picture is taken in Manaslu Conservation Area, Chekampar, in Gorkha District of Nepal at the altitude of 3025m. The mushroom looks very attractive with its whitish veil technically called indusium. Although elegant, the mushroom has a very unpleasant odor. Both the ordor and physical appearance relates to its advancement for spore dispersal over other mushroom species. Instead of only depending on wind for spore dispersal, the stinkhorns – as their name suggests – produce a stinky, brown, spore filled mucous called gleba. The insects are attracted by its appearance, and when they come to feed on the gleba, the spores get attached to insects and are carried far and wide. The species has several medicinal and aphrodisiac properties, and is among a highly praised edible mushrooms especially in China and Europe.
Hoolock gibbons belong to the family Hylobatidae. They are arboreal – live on trees, and mostly frugivorous – feed on fruits, young leaves, and flower buds. Ecologically, they play an important role in seed dispersal and forest regeneration. They are territorial and live in groups of 2-6 individuals. Hoolock gibbons are distributed in the forested areas in northeastern India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and southern China. Their natural range extends from east of Brahmaputra river to west of the Salween river. Habitat loss and forest degradation is the major challenge around conservation of this species. Conservation and management of habitat of species such as Hoolock that is spread across several countries call for collective efforts by countries sharing their habitats.