Monsoon takes on a whole new meaning when you find yourself in the highest rainfall zone of the Western Ghats (also the second highest rainfall zone in India). Agumbe, a wonderfully forested region in western Karnataka, often referred to by herpetologists as the ‘King Cobra capital of the world’, happens to be this region. It has been known to receive an average of 7640 millimetres of rainfall a year, and a record of 4508 millimetres in a single month.
Though water makes up 97.5% of our planet, only 3.5% of it is fresh water. Freshwater ecosystems occupy only 0.8% of the earth’s surface, but harbour nearly 6% of all known species. These incredibly dynamic and rich ecosystems function as the backbone for life as we know it. Agumbe shows us just a fraction of the millions of species that inhabit this planet alongside us, and their dependence on fresh water.
In 2013, as one of the teams participating in the SAEVUS Natural Capital Awards “Trailblazers of the Year 2013”, with the assignment to be completed in June, it quickly became apparent to us that documenting the coming of the monsoon would be the best way to highlight the magic of Agumbe.
What made our work challenging was that we were documenting subjects that most people do not consider charismatic. Frogs, fungus, fish and insects became our models for a week. Day and night became one long blur because the range of animal activity demanded that we shoot at all hours. And there was no choice but to resign ourselves to a multitude of leech bites and constantly being damp, if not completely soaked.
We decided to create this video to try and do a little more justice to the amazing spectacle of an Agumbe monsoon. The narrative was written to describe the profusion of animal activity that coincides with the rains. This is not a film, but a compilation of stills and video clips. In retrospect, after adding underwater video work to the repertoire of things we now do professionally, this video seems almost incomplete. And yet, when we remember the effort, the arguments, and the exhaustion, we are happy for the time spent creating it.
Our freshwater systems are under threat. There is no doubt about that. We share this presentation in the hope that these 10 minutes can help people connect with the Indian monsoon and our rainforests, and marvel at their unfathomable complexity.