Review of Natural World: Mountains of the Monsoon

The Pogeyan, a new mystery cat
By Darren Naish re-Published from Tetrapod Zoology ' Science Blogs'

I've pretty much given up on TV. I occasionally watch a few things (The IT Crowd, Doctor Who, QI, Never Mind the Buzzcocks), but I'd be very happy to not have a TV at all. Once in a blue moon, however, there is something really good. On Friday evening (Jan 16th), BBC 2 screened 'The Mountains of the Monsoon' as part of its The Natural World series. This featured wildlife photographer and environmentalist Sandesh Kadur as he travelled about the Western Ghats in quest of wildlife.

The Western Ghats evidently has some awesome wildlife. There are dholes, tigers, leopards, elephants, sambar, gaur, jungle cats, leopard cats, lion-tailed macaques, scimitar-babblers, green pigeons, woodshrikes, eagle owls, fish owls, great hornbills, and hundreds of frogs, lizards and snakes. Several frogs that Sandesh has photographed are new, as-yet-undescribed species, and a shieldtail snake that Sandesh caught and handled was also suggested to be new.

The most famous herp of the region is, I would say, the bizarre, fat, purple frog Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis, which you'll know well following its publication in 2003 (Biju & Bossuyt 2003) [previously discussed here on Tet Zoo]. The documentary included film of the animal, probably the first taken and certainly the first shown on TV (I think) [adjacent image, from 'The Mountains of the Monsoon', shows Sandesh holding a Nasikabatrachus. Image © BBC]. I hadn't previously realised how large Nasikabatrachus is, nor how fat and wobbly its back is. Incidentally, the idea that Nasikabatrachus is most closely related to the sooglossids (Seychelles frogs) was mentioned during the documentary. This relationship has been recovered in most phylogenetic studies (Biju & Bossuyt 2003, Frost et al. 2006, Van der Meijden et al. 2007). However, an alternative possibility - that it's actually more closely related to the African pig-nosed or shovel-nosed frogs (the hemisotids) - has also been suggested (Nussbaum & Wu 2007).

The pogeyan

Anyway, the documentary mostly focused on something even more novel: namely, the unresolved identity of a mysterious large cat. Sandesh saw this cat about ten years ago. His sighting occurred during broad daylight, in the high-altitude grasslands around Anamudi, the highest peak south of the Himalayas. Unfortunately the cat was not photographed or filmed. It was large, long-tailed, and had rounded ears and a uniform darkish grey colour. It does not match any known cat, and might therefore represent a new species. In an effort to film the animal, Sandesh set up a camera-trap (a chirping model of a black-capped chickadee was used as bait), and also used a heat-sensitive camera. Unfortunately neither effort yielded any images of the cat....

Read more at Tetrapod Zoology

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