The Green Paradise
These Islands are blessed with a unique' luxuriant evergreen tropical rainforest canopy, sheltering a mixed germ Plasm Bank, comprising of Indian, Myanmarese, Malaysian and endemic floral strain. So far, about 2,200 varieties of plants have been recorded out of which 150 are endemic and 1,300 do not occur in mainland India.
The Island Jungles
The South Andaman forests have a profuse growth of epiphytic vegetation, mostly Ferns and Orchids. The Middle Andamans harbours mostly moist deciduous forests. North Andamans is characterised by the wet evergreen type, with plenty of woody climbers.
The north Nicobar Islands, including Car Nicobar and Battimalv, are marked by the complete absence of evergreen forests, while such forests form the dominant vegetation in the central and southern islands of the Nicobar group. Grasslands occur only in the Nicobars, and while deciduous forests are common in the Andamans, they are almost absent in the Nicobars. This atypical forest coverage is made-up of twelve types namely:
(1) Giant Evergreen Forest
(2) Andamans Tropical Evergreen Forest
(3) Southern Hilltop Tropical Evergreen Forest
(4) Cane Brakes
(5) Wet Bamboo Brakes
(6) Andamans Semi-Evergreen Forest
(7) Andamans Moist Deciduous Forest
(8) Andamans Secondary Moist Deciduous Forest
(9) Littoral Forest
(10) Mangrove Forest
(11) Brackish Water Mixed Forest
(12) Submontane Hill Valley Swamp Forest
A Forested Coverage
As per report on State of Forest (1997) of the Forest Survey of India, about 92% of the 8,249-sq-kms. of geographical area of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is under forest cover. Of this about 86% is under recorded forest. Out of this recorded forest area (7,171-sq-kms.), about 40% are under Reserve Forest and 60% under Protected Forest, comprising Wildlife Sanctuaries, National Parks, Tribal Reserve and Biosphere Reserve overlapping within each other. Luxuriant mangroves, perhaps the richest in the world, occupy nearly 11.5%of the territory.
Indifference to the need to promote conservation of bio-diversity and to pay due attention to other forest related local and national environmental concerns, the Andaman and Nicobar administration has created nine National Parks and ninety-six Wild Life Sanctuaries. The Great Nicobar Island is being managed as a Biosphere Reserve with the aim to conserve the species of plants and animals especially those, which are endemic.
Andaman Forest is abound in plethora of timber species numbering 200 or more, out of which about 30 varieties are considered to be commercial. Major commercial timber species are Gurjan (Dipterocarpus Spp.) and Padauk (Pterocarpus Dalbergioides). Ornamental wood such as Marble Wood (Diospyros Marmorata), Padauk (Pterocarpus Dalbergioides), Silver Grey (a special formation of wood in white 'Chuglam'), Chooi (Sageraea Elliptical), and Kokko (Albizzia Lebbeck) are noted for their pronounced grain formation. Being steadier than teak Padauk is widely used for furniture making.
Burr and the Buttress formation in Andaman Padauk are World famous for their exceptionally unique charm and figuring. Largest piece of Buttress known from Andaman was a dining table of 13'x 7'. The largest piece of Burr was again a dining table to seat eight persons at a time. The holy Rudraksha (Elaeocarps Sphaericus) and Aromatic Dhoop/Resin trees also occur here.
Shells are perhaps the most colourful and fascinating objects known to man other than Gems since time immemorial. They served as money, ornaments, musical instruments, drinking cups, in magic and in the making of fine porcelains. They were also the symbols in rituals and religious observances, and the returning pilgrims wore them as a token of divine pardon.
Andaman & Nicobar Islands are traditionally known for their shell wealth specially Turbo, Trochus, Murex and Nautilus.
The Peculiar Usage
Earliest recorded commercial exploitation began during 1929. Shells are important to these islands because some like Turbo, Trochus & Nautilus, etc. are being used as novelties supporting many cottage industries producing a wide range of decorative items & ornaments. Shells such as Giant Clam, Green Mussel and Oyster support edible Shellfishery; a few like Scallop, Clam and Cockle are burnt in Kiln to produce edible lime.
The Univalve or one shell group belongs to the class "Gastropoda" having more than 80,000 species. Sacred Chank belongs to this group. Their body, in the course of development, go through a complicated process, 'torsion' i.e. the visceral mass is twisted though 90° together with the shell that covers it. Under mysterious circumstances many a time this process proceeds in the reverse direction thus creating an abnormal shell which otherwise lives like a normal shell. A classic example is the most wanted left-handed 'Chank'.
The Bivalve or Pelecypoda has about 20,000 living species. Majority of them burrows in sand or mud such as Pearl Oyster, Wing Oyster, Giant Clam, etc.
A third group, which is comparatively smaller, is called "Cephalopoda", which includes Octopus, Squid, Nautilus, etc.
The soft body animal, which lives inside the shell, is covered with a thick layer of specialised epithelium cells known as Mantle, which in turn secretes a two-tier shell material making the shell. The outer layer having a different colour pattern is organic in constitution, technically called 'Periostracum'. Calcium ions from the environment are absorbed into the blood and deposited evenly under this layer. The next inner layer is called 'Nacre' or 'Mother of Pearl' responsible for the pearly lustre common to many shells