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The Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot is a 1,600 kilometre mountain chain that runs parallel to India’s west coast. The range starts just south of Mumbai, where plateaus transform into flowerbeds after the monsoon rain. Further south, the mountains get higher, and grassy mountaintops alternate with forests along ridges.

A long evolutionary history, coupled with the changing climate that the range has experienced over thousands of years, has resulted in a bewildering variety of plants and animals that make the Western Ghats one of the world’s 137 “irreplaceable areas”, according to Science.

If the Ghats are destroyed, many species unique to this area will disappear. With the Indian government under pressure to exploit the region’s timber and minerals, time may be running out, not just for charismatic large mammals such as tigers and elephants, but also for a host of other equally beautiful species.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net’s South Asia desk.