Saturday, October 4, 2008

Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve

An Article by Mohan Pai



NILGIRI BIOSPHERE RESERVE


Biosphere Reserves in India

The concept of a biosphere reserve emerged from the “Man and Biosphere” programme sponsored by the UNESCO during the early seventies of the last century. Prior to this, conservation efforts had a tendency to focus on a few animals like the tiger, while ignoring the overall diversity of living organisms. They also did not successfully reconcile the need for development with conservation. The Biosphere Reserve is an attempt to rectify these lacunae and make conservation more meaningful given the socio-economic realities of the region.
“Biosphere Reserve” is an international designation term made by the UNESCO for representative parts of natural and cultural landscapes extending over large areas of terrestrial or coastal/marine ecosystems or a combination thereof.
The network includes significant examples of biomes throughout the world. The Biosphere Reserve finally aims at conserving and use of resources for the well-being of people locally, nationally and internationally. So far about 531 Biosphere Reserves have been established in about 105 countries.
In 1978, an advisory group of the Indian National “Man and Biosphere” programme identified 12 sites ranging from Nanda Devi in the Himalayas to the Gulf of Mannar in the Bay of Bengal, representing the diverse biogeographic provinces in the country. Of this the project proposal for the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve was first prepared in 1980, but it took six years for the reserve to be officially established.

Biosphere reserves can spur efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change as well as encourage increased use of renewable energy, according to a recent declaration adopted by a meeting backed by the UNESCO

The Indian government has established 14 Biosphere Reserves of India, (categories roughly corresponding to IUCN Category V Protected areas), which protect larger areas of natural habitat (than a National Park or Animal Sanctuary), and often include one or more National Parks and/or preserves, along buffer zones that are open to some economic uses. Protection is granted not only to the flora and fauna of the protected region, but also to the human communities who inhabit these regions, and their ways of life.Four of the fourteen biosphere reserves are a part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, based on the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme list: 0 Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve 0 Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve 0 Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve 0 Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve.

Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve

Covering an area of 5,500 sq. km in the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the Nilgiri Biosphere reserve has been designed to encompass extremities of habitat.


From 100m above MSL in the Nilambur plains, it goes up the vertical slopes of New Amarambalam to the rugged heights of Mukurthi peak (2,554 m) and drops in the east to 250 m in the Coimbatore plains. The western slopes get over 5,000 mm of precipitation annually while the sheltered eastern valleys receive less than 500 mm. Corresponding to their altitudinal and climatic gradients, the natural vegetation changes from tropical wet evergreen forest along the western slopes to montane stunted Shola forest amidst the grassy down on the upper plateau and on the east, progressively drier deciduous forests ending in thorny scrub. This setting is home for a variety of animals - the Lion-tailed macaque in the evergreen forests, the Nilgiri tahr in the grassy downs, the black buck in the dry scrub and the tiger and the elephant throughout the region.
To the north, the Biosphere Reserve begins in the Nagarhole National Park of Karnataka and the adjoining Wayanad sanctuary of Kerala. The moist deciduous forests and teak plantations of Nagarhole harbours abundant population of gaur, spotted deer, sambar and wild pig which support a sizeable number of carnivores such as tiger and leopard. Nagarhole is perhaps the best place in south India for sighting these large cats. The forest cover along the Kabini river has been reduced due to the construction of an irrigation dam. It was along the banks of this river that elephants were regularly captured for nearly a century by the ‘Khedda’ method until 1971. Even today an evening ride on coracle along the riverbanks during the dry months may be rewarded with the sight of over a hundred elephants.

The Biosphere reserve is split into four major zones viz. Core Zone, Manipulation forestry Zone, Tourism Zone and Restoration Zone.

The break up for the above four zones is as follows:

Core Zone 1240.3 sq. km. (22.5%)

Manipulation Forestry Zone 3238.7 sq. km (58.6%)

Tourism Zone 335.0 sq. km. (6.1%)

Restoration Zone 706.4 sq. km. (12.8%)

South of the Kabini, the dry deciduous forests of the Bandipur National Park were declared as a Project Tiger area in 1973. Contiguous with Bandipur lie Madumalai sanctuary of Tamil Nadu and portion of the Wayanad sanctuary in Kerala. The natural vegetation of this tract is moist deciduous forest. The fauna is similar to that of Nagarhole with elephants in large numbers.

Mullu Kurmbas

East of Madumalai, the vegetation over the Sigur plateau and the Moyar river valley lying in the rain shadow of the Nilgiri massif, becomes drier. Thorny plants such as Acacia dominate. In addition to the fauna of the deciduous forests, striped hyena, jackal and four-horned antelope are seen here. The black buck has disappeared from the Sigur plateau but a viable population of 300 to 500 is still found in the Moyar valley. They can be easily seen in the evening along the foreshore of the Bhavani reservoir.The Moyar valley is the junction of two great hill chains of the peninsular India - The Eastern Ghats and the Western Ghats. A portion of Talamalai-Satyamangalam plateau has been included in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve as representative of the Eastern Ghats.
Over the eastern slopes of the Nilgiris, the forest cover extends southwards as a narrow belt into Balampatty and Siruvani hills. The Siruvani reservoir on the Kerala side provides water to Coimbatore city. A good stretch of evergreen vegetation covers the higher reaches of Siruvani hills. Adjoining these hills to the north-west, the Attappady valley is mostly under cultivation. The large tribal population here has been practising shifting cultivation for a long time. As a result, the forest covers over the surrounding hills have largely degraded. A well preserved stretch of evergreen forest with Dipterocarpus, Mesua and Palaquium is seen west of the Attappady Reserve, extending into the Silent Valley, New Amarambalam and through a narrow corridor into Nilambur. The endangered Lion-tailed macaque of the Silent Valley fame is highly adapted to such evergreen habitats. The controversy regarding the proposed dam across Kanthipuzha in the Silent Valley was laid to rest with the entire area being declared as a National Park in 1986. But the Government of Kerala has proposed Pathrakkadavu Hydro Electric Project in the Kunthi river, once again threatening the Silent Valley.

Perhaps the largest pristine evergreen forest in peninsular India is the New Amarambalam Reserve, which has escaped the axe simply because its steep terrain is inaccessible. This is home to Chalamekans, the only genuine hunter-gatherers in the peninsula. The upper Nilgiri plateau has been altered by human activities into one vast stretch of cultivated land and settlements around Udhagamandalam (Ooty).
Both slopes and valleys here grow tea, coffee, cinchona, fruits and vegetables such as potato. Extensive plantation of Blue gum (Eucalyptus), Wattle (Acacia) and Pine have also been raised. These have resulted in enormous loss of top soil. To tap the potential for generating hydro-electric power, a series of dams have been constructed across the Bhavani river and its tributaries.
A major portion of the upper plateau has been excluded from the Biospere Reserve. Only the western and the southern ridges, which retain some natural Shola and grass land vegetation along with monoculture plantations have been included. A sanctuary has been declared to protect the Nilgiri tahr.

Location

The reserve encompasses 5,520 km² in the states of Karnataka (1527.4 km²), Kerala (1455.4 km²), and Tamil Nadu (2537.6 km²). The Biosphere lies Between 11o 36' to 12o 00' N Latitude and 76o 00' to 77o 15' E Longitude. Central location: 11°30'00?N, 76°37'30?E

Protected Areas

Mudumalai WL Sanctuary and National Park (321.1 km²), Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary( 344km²), Bandipur National Park(874km²), Nagarhole National Park (643 km²), Nugu WLS, Mukurthi National Park (78 km²) and Silent Valley National Park (89.52km²) are protected areas within this reserve. The Biosphere Reserve also includes zones of the Nilgiris open to forestry and tourism including: Nilgiris District (North (448.3 km²) and Nilgiris District South (198.8 km²)), Erode District (Sathyamangalam forest (745.9km²) and Erode(49.3 km²)) and Coimbatore District (696.2 km²) in Tamil Nadu.The reserve extends from the tropical moist forests of the windward western slopes of the Ghats to the tropical dry forests on the leeward east slopes. Rainfall ranges from 500 mm to 7000 mm per year. The reserve encompasses three ecoregions, the South Western Ghats moist deciduous forests, South Western Ghats montane rain forests, and South Deccan Plateau dry deciduous forests. The habitat types include montane rain forest, semi-evergreen moist forest, thorn forest and scrub, montane grassland, and high-elevation Shola forests.

Fauna

Fauna includes over 100 species of mammals, 350 species of birds, 80 species of reptiles; about 39 species of fish, 31 amphibians, 60 species of reptiles 316 species of butterflies and innumerable invertebrates. Rare animals include the tiger and the Nilgiri Tahr.

Flora

The reserve has very rich plant diversity. Of 3300 species, 1232 are endemic.

Diversity of Forests

The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve includes all the important forest types that are to be found in South India as well as some that are just peculiar to the belt such as Tropical Thorn Forest, Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests, Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests, Tropical Semi Evergreen Forests, Sub Tropical Broad Leaved Forests, Tropical Wet Evergreen Forests, Southern Montane Wet Temperate Forests, Southern Montane Wet Grasslands and Subtropical Hill Savannas.Forest Divisions The NBR is spread over a large area within three states and varied climatic zones. The forest divisions are as follows: Coimbatore Division, Nilgiri South Division, Erode Division, Satyamangalam Division, Nilambur Division,Mudumalai Sanctuary, Wyanad Division,Palghat Division Chamrajnagar Division,Project Tiger Bandipur Mysore Division, Hunsur Division.

Protected Areas

The large contiguous extent of forest has the highest density of protected areas in the entire nation for so small an area.

Forest Types

The forests of NBR are spread over a vast area and cover various ecotypes. The following pages explain the difference in forest types and its relevance to the culture and ecology of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.The overall classification of the different forest types are as follows:

Evergreen, Semi Evergreen ,Moist Deciduous, Shola, Dry Deciduous Dry Scrub Woodland, Grasslands

Rhododendrons

Evergreen Forest

These forests form a major portion of the western part of the reserve and are characterized by giant trees, multilayered species variation and luxuriant vegetation. The giant lofty trees can go upto a height of 150 feet or more and are often supported by huge buttresses. These trees offer refuge to a multitude of life forms including mosses, ferns, epiphytes, orchids, birds and often small animals. The annual rainfall is more than 200 mm with a maximum of 4 -5 dry months, and the mean temperature higher than 150 C throughout the year. The soil is loamy laterite. The main NTFPs are wild nutmeg(Myristica spp.), cinnamom (Cinnamonum spp.), cane (Calamus spp.), Piper longum, honey and other herbs. These forest are located in Silent Valley, Attapadi Reserve Forest, New Amarambalam, Nilambur Special Division and small pockets of Coimbatore Division in Tamil Nadu.

Semi Evergreen

forests are moist and occur as a transition zone between the Evergreen Forests and the Moist Deciduous Forests. The trees are slightly lower in height as compared to Evergreen Forests. They are usually found in the lower or more accessible regions of the Evergreen Forests. Buttressed trees are quite common, lianas are also abundant. There are 2 possible transition zones for these forests - either the secondary forests moving towards the evergreen climax or they are the degraded forms of the Evergreen Forests. In some degraded areas around habitations, bamboo (Bambusa arundinacea) and sandalwood (Santanalis spp.) are also found. Lagerstroemia lanceolata is the predominant deciduous species. These forests are restricted to parts of Nilambur valley and even here they have been mostly converted to teak plantations. Wyanad plateau, the south western part of Nagarhole National Park, and western part of Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary also contain remnants of this type. Rainfall is around 3000-4000 mm with a dry season of 3-4 months. The soil is generally red lateritic loam. They are also classified as moist deciduous teak type. The undergrowth includes many evergreen shrubs and small trees. The trees reach a height of 25-30 m. Buttresses, lianas and dense undergrowth are common. Some species are common to the dry deciduous forest type also.

Shola Montane

Sholas are found intensively in the Nilgiri South Division and adjacent areas of Kerala in the upper reaches of Silent Valley, Attapadi and New Amarambalam. They are also highly concentrated in the Western catchment area, forming part of the Mukurthi National Park. They are accompanied by grasslands and are frequently the origin of most of the rivers of the zone. The trees are short to medium height (7-20 m), have small dense leaves and make a thick canopy. There is a thick concentration of mosses and ferns. They have a high water retention capacity. They are also classified as the Shola Montane forest type due to their slow growth, high susceptibility and confined geographical area - they are referred to as `Living Fossils'. The average rainfall is around 1000-1200 m with a maximum dry season of not more than one month. Problems Areas

The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve has been enduring human interference for a very long time through development projects such as hydroelectric power projects, agriculture, horticulture, etc., which have brought about substantial change in the ecology of the area. Many environmental problems are noticed in different parts of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.

Intensive felling

The increase in influx of population from the surrounding areas has led to deforestation and consequent habitat destruction. Between 1990 – 96 there has been a decrease in the dense forest area. 28.96 sq. km. of dense forests have become open forest and 22.67 sq. km. of dense forests have changed into non-forest areas. Intensive felling has led to multiple problems like destruction, depletion and degradation of the environmental and its natural resources. Indiscriminate clearing of forestst is destroying the habitat of the several species of animals and birds of the Nilgiris. Some of them like the Nilgiri wood pigeon, Nilgiri pipet and Nilgiri langur that are endemic to this region have hence become highly endangered. Animals like the elephant, tiger and leopard are moving closer to human settlements owing to the shrinking of forest areas.

Plantations (monoculture)

The Nilgiris, which support a variety of tree species, are threatened by monoculture. The sholas are being destroyed for plantations. Monoculture of eucalyptus, wattle, blue gum, cash crops like tea, coffee, cardamom and food crops like potato have degraded the soil quality along with excessive use of fertilizers. The tea bushes require frequent appli cation of fertilizer, which has made the soil porous. During heavy rain, these slopes are easily washed away resulting in a landslide

Grazing.

The sholas were used for grazing cattle. The livestock population inside the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is very low but the population in the periphery is very high. Destruction of the sholas has led to disappearance of perennial streams, causing soil erosion and micro climatic changes. Overgrazing has led to degradation of low and high level grasslands, which harbour a large number of endemic species.

Forest fires

Forest fires are more common in the sholas and dry deciduous forests. They are both accidental as well as deliberate. The annual fire set off during the summer months for a better pasture in the ensuing monsoon is another manmade threat to the biological diversity.

Development and construction activity

Due to developmental activities large areas of forests have been cleared in and around the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. More human habitation has resulted in largescale road laying that connects even remote forest areas to the nearest urban centre. Construction activities like road building have unleashed widespread landslides and slope destabilization. Construction of the Kabini reservoir has submerged the valley between Nagarhole and Bandipur.

Horticultural and agricultural practices

Extension of agriculture, and use of lands unsuited for agriculture have accelerated soil erosion. Human settlements on the uplands have destroyed the sholas. Soil erosion is severe in the east and southwest areas of the Nilgiris where the monsoons are heavy. In the Mysore plateau region, the extension of irrigation canals from reservoirs has led to a largescale shift in land practices.

Tourism

The Nilgiris are an important tourist centre in South India, and attract a large number of tourists. A large number of hotels, clubs, resorts, gardens and roads have emerged rapidly,degrading the natural vegetation. Extensive pollution and water scarcity are the result affecting the entire ecology Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The Ooty Lake has been ruined accumulating garbage and disposal of sewage into it.
Conservation and management of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve

Conservation and management of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve depends on the coordination between government agencies and the local people. For effective management, the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve has been zonalised as

core zone (1240 sq.km)

buffer zone (4280 sq.km).

The buffer zone is further divided into manipulation zones like forestry, tourism and recreation zones. These zones are located in all the three states of Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Kerala into which the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve extends. Most of the plantations are seen only in the manipulation zone.Being one of the hotspots of biodiversity, the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve has some national parks and wildlife sanctuaries within its boundaries. Conservation of wildlife is the main objective of these national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Some of these areas have been designated by the government as Project Tiger and Project Elephant areas.

People

The Biosphere has a large number of indigenous communities, most of them forest dwellers and hunter gatherers. These distinct ethnic groups have small populations and live in geographical concentrations. It forms home to several adivasi communities, including the only surviving hunter gatherers of the Indian Sub-continent - the Cholanaikans in the New Amarambalam area.

Toda dwelling

Apart from the Todas - a well known pastoral group in the upper Nilgiris, other groups include the Paniyas, Irulas, Kurumbas, Kuruchiyans, Mullukurumbas, Adiyans and Alyars. Its richness in terms of people is incomparable - history goes back a long way. Their unique cultural and social characteristics sets them apart.

Cholanaickens, Allar,Malayan, etc., are native to the reserve. Except for Cholanaickens who live exclusively on food gathering, hunting and fishing, all the other tribal groups are involved in their traditional occupation of agriculture.

Betta Kurumbas

The Betta Kurumbas live in northern parts of Gudalur, extending into the Mysore district in the north. These people live in large settlements of 60-80 households. Most have no land and depend on wage labour and NTFP collection for a large part of the year. With the rapid change to tea cultivation in Gudalur area, these adivasis have become daily wage workers. Many of them have found employment with the Forest Department as watchers and elephant mahouts. Some of them are skilled bamboo workers. Today, the Betta Kurumbas have access to government schemes and help from other agencies. During the season, they go into the forest to mainly collect shikakai (Acacia concinna), kodampuli (Garcinia gummigutta) and some medicinal plants. They are not good honey collectors and like the Irulas, cover a wide area and collect small volumes; the more specialized/skilled collection of herbs and honey is left for the Kattunaikans.

Todas

Though very few in number, approximately 1500 people, this community is well known for their distinct features and traditions. They are scattered over 40 settlements in the Nilgiris. They are pastoralists, breeding buffaloes for both custom and livelihood.

Toda Women

Their traditional huts, like igloos, are made of different products from the forest. Due to the nature of their activities, they traditionally commanded large stretches of land for grazing. These were mainly in the upper areas of the Nilgiris, with grasslands and shola vegetation. After the advent of the British and the introduction of exotic plantations of acacia and eucalyptus, their pastures are lost and many of their traditional landmarks become meaningless.

Malasars

The Malasars are found both in the district of Coimbatore and in the adjoining parts of Kerala. These people are a forest community, living on marginal cultivation (slash & burn), and collection of NTFPs. A large part of their diet also consists of wild yam. The Malasars live in low elevations and almost down to the plains. Some of the villages have good access and infrastructure facilities. Most of the younger generation is getting educated and some are working on regular jobs. A vast difference is found in the economic status of the adivasis in different settlements. Some of the Malasars practice settled agriculture, whereas most earn their livelihood through daily wage jobs.

Cholanaickens

The Cholanaickans live in the Karulai Forest Range of Nilambur in Kerala, forming part of the western NBR.

Cholanaickan Hut

They are the most primitive indigenous community, still in the pre-agricultural level of development. The people live in temporary shelters alongside rivers and shift to caves in the monsoons. Their lives are closely linked to the semi evergreen and moist deciduous forests around that area. They collect NTFPs and sell them to the Co-operative Society of Nilambur. They collect honey, black dammer, mosses, nutmeg, shikakai from the forest and take back rice, tobacco, salt, oil and other necessities from the Society. Now, they number approximately 426 and continue their lifestyle, though slowly being drawn into modern market economies. Very few development programmes address this community and since they are so few in number, they also marry into other communities, especially the Padinaickens.

Irulas

Anthropologists do not consider them original inhabitants of hills. They have moved up to the mountains either for wage labour or while doing slash and burn agriculture.

Irula Woman

Usually, the Irulas have very little link to the other adivasis in the region, except with the Kurumbas. They have a more plains-ward movement and associate with agricultural and trading communities in the adjacent plains around the hills. Hunting, food gathering and agriculture form a distinctive way of making a living, which they now carry out, mainly for commerce.

They usually go in groups into the forest and collect items for sale to traders. Till now, the hunting for small game and eating of roots from the forest is common. They collect honey from the Roch Bee from trees and from the combs of the smaller bee - Apis cerana. They have a more widespread foraging strategy, collecting more volume for trade by covering vast areas. They too have knowledge of various medicinal plants, which they use. However, they hold the Kurumbas in awe for their skill in sorcery and medicine.Jenu KurumbaLiving in the northern part of the reserve, they are named such due to their skill in honey collection - jenu means honey. These communities are concentrated in the Mysore and Kodagu districts in the Karnataka part of the NBR. Cultivable land has been given to these communities, though they are traditionally hunter-gatherers. Some of the people undertake seasonal agriculture or else depend on wage labour. They collect forest produce, mainly honey, during the season and travel sometimes across the forest to Kerala to sell it. They are socially organized into groups and sangams in different zones. There are approximately 40,000 Jenu Kurumbas in the NBR. Mullu Kurumbas

The Mullu Kurumbas are concentrated in the Wyanad region, including parts of Gudalur. Known more for their hunting and bird catching traditions, they now practise agriculture in the vyals of Wyanad. The women engage in fishing traditionally. Today, most people are educated and hold jobs. They take advantage of government schemes and their special status. A lot of the culture is now borrowed from the Nayars of Kerala, though they have an animistic form of worship.

Nagarhole National Park

Nagarhole National Park, also known as 'Rajiv Gandhi National Park,' is located 94 km from Mysore. It is spread between Kodagu and Mysore districts. Located to the northwest of Bandipur National Park, Kabini reservoir separates the two. The exclusive hunting reserve of the former rulers of Mysore, the park has rich forest cover, small streams, valleys, and waterfalls. In 1975 its area stretched to 575 km².The place derives its name from Kannada, Naga meaning snake and hole referring to streams. Set up in 1955, it is one of the best-managed parks in the country, with the office of the Deputy Conservator of Forests situated in Hunsur, about 47 km away from Nagarhole. The climate is tropical; summer is hot and winter is pleasant.

Tiger

The park boasts a healthy tiger-predator ratio, and tiger, bison, and elephant are much more populous here than in Bandipur.The park is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The Western Ghats, Nilgiri Sub-Cluster (6,000+ km²), including all of Nagarhole National Park, is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.


Map of Nagarhole Reserve

Terrain

With the backdrop of misty Brahmagiri hill ranges and it’s thickly forested and gently undulating terrai, criss-crossed with many rivers and streams, Nagarhole is naturalists dreamland. Masal Betta (959 m) located on the south-west fringes of the park is the highest point, and Kabini River is the lowest point at 701 m above sea level. Mostly moist mixed deciduous forest in the southern parts, dry tropical forest towards the east, and Sub mountain hill valley swamp forest

Mammals:

Elephant, Jackal ,Tiger, Panther, Gaur, Muntjac, Sambar, Spotted deer, Mongoose, Civet cat, Hyena, Dhole, Wild Boar, Striped Hyena, Sloth Bear, Leopard Cat, Jungle Cat, Mongoose, Muntjac, Mouse Dear, Slender Loris, Malabar Giant Sqiurrel, Porcupine, Pangolin,Reptiles: Marsh Crocodile, King Cobra, Krait, Python, Viper, Tortoise, Monitor Lizard ,Toads etc.The main trees found are Rosewood, Teak, Sandalwood and Silver oak.

Bandipur National Park

Bandipur National Park is one of India's best known sanctuaries, and is an important Project Tiger reserve. It is located in the Chamarajanagar district of southern Karnataka in south India, and is contiguous with the Mudumalai National Park in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, the Wynad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala, and the Nagarhole National Park to the northwest. It is home to around seventy tigers and over three thousand Asian elephants (as per the 1997 census ), along with leopards, dholes, gaur and sloth bears. Bandipur is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.The Western Ghats, Nilgiri Sub-Cluster (6,000+ km²), including all of Bandipur National Park, is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.

History

A sanctuary of 90 km² was created at this site in the Bandipur Reserve Forest in 1931.

Gaur

As it was realised that this was too small for effective wildlife conservation, leading to the instituting of the Venugopala Wildlife Park at this site, extending over 800 km². The Bandipur Tiger Reserve was constituted in 1973 by carving out 880 km² from the Wildlife Park. Recognised under Project Tiger in 1973 this park has boasted constant rise in Tiger population. Also famous for Sandalwood trees and rare species of Flora.
The main species are:Tiger, Four horned Antelope, Gaur, Elephant, Panther, Sloth Bear, Crocodiles, Mouse deer, Python, Osprey,Birds: Grey Junglefowl, Pompadour Green Pigeon, Honey Buzzard, Red-headed Vulture, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Brown Hawk Owl,

Chital herd

Bay Owl, Malabar Trogon, Nilgiri Flycatcher, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Little Spiderhunter, Plain Flowerpecker.Reptiles: King Cobra, Common Cobra, Python, Adder, Viper, Rat Snake, Water Snake, Marsh Crocodile, Lizard, Chameleon, Monitor Lizard, Frog, Tree frog, Toad and Tortoise.

Geography

Bandipur National Park's altitude between 680-1454 metres and is situated south of the Kabini river at the foothills of the Western Ghats. The rivers of Kabini, Nagur and Moyar flow through the reserve.

Gopalswami Temple, Gopalswami Betta

Climate - Winter minimum 10, Summer maximum 28 degrees, Monsoon from June to September and best time to visit is open throughout the year but preferably in monsoon when wildlife is plenty and forest is green. Greenery is quite lean when viewed from road but gets thicker as we proceed into the forest.

Mudumalai National Park

The Mudumalai National Park lies on the northwestern side of the Nilgiri Hills (Blue Mountains), in Nilgiri District, about 80 km north-west of Coimbatore in the westernmost part of Tamil Nadu, on the interstate boundaries with Karnataka and Kerala states in South India.

Mudumalai forests


Conservation history

The park was created in 1940 to become the first wildlife sanctuary in southern India. Originally 60 square kilometres, the sanctuary was enlarged to 295 km² in 1956 and subsequently to its present size of 321 km². The sanctuary is contiguous with Bandipur National Park (874 km²), Wynad Wildlife Sanctuary (344 km²), Sigur and Singara reserve forests. The park is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The Western Ghats, Nilgiri Sub-Cluster (6,000+ km²), including all of Mudumalai National Park, is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.

Flora and fauna

There are three main types of forest: tropical moist deciduous, tropical dry deciduous and southern tropical thorn. In certain places mixed vegetation types are present. Tropical moist deciduous forest occurs in the western Benne Block, where rainfall is higher than in the other blocks.

Primates found include the Gray langur (Semnopithecus priam) and the Bonnet Macaque (Macaca radiata). There are as many as 37 Tigers (Panthera tigris) (E) in mudumalai forest area, whereas the Leopard (P. pardus) (T) is most often seen in the Kargudi area. Other carnivores include the Dhole (Cuon alpinus) (V), the Striped Hyena (Hyaena hyaena), the Golden Jackal (Canis aureus) and the Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus) (I). The Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) (E) population totals several hundred animals.

Elephant herd

Ungulates include the Gaur (Bos gaurus) (V), the Sambar Deer (Cervus unicolor), the Chital (Axis axis), Indian Muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak), the Indian Spotted Chevrotain (Moschiola meminna), and the Wild Boar (Sus scrofa). Rodents include the Indian Giant Squirrel (Ratufa indica maxima) and the Red Giant Flying Squirrel (Petaurista petaurista).Bird life is rich. Regional endemics include Malabar trogon Harpactes fasciatus and Malabar grey hornbill Tockus griseus. Predatory birds include crested hawk-eagle Spizaetus cirrhatus and crested serpent eagle Spilornis cheela. It also holds the isolated southern population of the Striped Tit-babbler Macronous gularis. Of the reptiles, monitor lizard Varanus bengalensis is the most regularly observed species.

The nearest airport is at Coimbatore (84km) and the closest railhead at Udhagamandalam (64km). However, in terms of travel practicality, the closest railhead is Mysore (90km),which sits on a major broad gauge line and is served by trains from across the country. The park is most conveniently accessible by road from Mysore on the Mysore-Ooty highway.Other Places to visit in this region Include:

The Elephant Feeding Camp - A place where you can interact with Elephants and also see how they are fed.

Museum - Near the Elephant feeding camp there is a museum where dead animals are preserved. These preserved animals once lived in the Mudumalai Jungle.

Moyar River - See how the Moyar river runs through the dense forest. Spotting animals while they come to drink water in the river is fun.

Elephant Safari and Van Safari Conducted by Tamilnadu forest department.

Kallatty falls - Located 30Km from Mudumalai forest department . A beautiful falls with breathtaking view.

Pykara Lake - Located 40 Km from Mudumalai Safari office. It is a clean and scenic lake between the hills. It is an isolated lake free from pollution and crowds. Boating is conducted here.

Mukurthi National Park

Mukurthi National Park is a 78.46 km² protected area located in the south-eastern corner of the Nilgiris Plateau west of Ootacamund hill station in the northwest corner of Tamil Nadu state in the Western Ghats mountain range of South India. The park is a part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, India's first International Biosphere ReserveThe Western Ghats, Nilgiri Sub-Cluster (6,000+ km²), including all of Mukurthi National Park, is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.The park is characterized by Montane grasslands and shrublands interspersed with sholas in a high altitude area of high rainfall, subfreezing temperatures and high winds. It is home to an array of endangered wildlife, including Royal Bengal Tiger and Asian Elephant, but its main mammal attraction is the Nilgiri Tahr. The park was previously known as Nilgiri Tahr National Park.

Mukurthi Peak

History

Native hill tribe communities including the Toda people have harvested firewood from the sholas and grazed their animals including the Hill Buffalo for centuries. Indiscriminate felling of the sholas started with the establishment of British settlements in Ootacamund, Coonoor and Wellington in the early 1800s. Beginning in 1841 authorities issued contracts to bidders to fell wood from specific sholas in a 'timber conservancy program. In 1868 James Breeds, Commissioner of the Hills, wrote: "...unless conservancy is taken in hand and organized under some efficient system under the control of an experienced officer, the destruction of the sholas is but a question of time."

Between 1840 and 1856 plantations of several non-native tree species were introduced to the area to satisfy the fuel-wood demand. These included 4 Wattle species (Black Wattle, Silver Wattle, Green Wattle and Blackwood), Eucalyptus, Cyprus, Indian Long leaf Pine and Thorny Gorse. Eucalyptus became the preferred plantation tree.Unlike the others, the wattles spread by root suckers to quickly cover large areas of native grasslands, including the Mukurthi Hills, and was declared a pest "useful for covering wastelands." Some Black Wattle plantations were maintained for the leather industry, as their bark yielded tannin.Mukurthi was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1986 and a National Park in 2001, in order to protect the Nilgiri Tahr.

Geography

Mukurthi National Park has an elongated crescent shape facing to the west between 11°10' to 11°22' N and 76°22' to 76°35' E.. It is bordered on the west by Nilambur South Forest Division in Kerala, to the northwest by Gudalur Forest Division, to the northeast, east and southeast by South Forest Division and to the south by Mannarghat Forest Division, Kerala. At its southwest tip the peaks of this park straddle the northeast corner of Silent Valley National Park of Kerala.On the Nilgiri Plateau, the Kundah range of the Nilgiri hills is a ridge on the south-western side of Mukurthi National Park bordering Kerala. The Tamil Nadu/Kerala border here is 39 km long. The park generally slopes towards the east and south receiving water from the Billithadahalla, Pykara and Kundah rivers, and the Upper Bhavani and Mukurthi reservoirs which flow through the park. Also several perennial streams originate in the park, most of which drain into the Bhavani Puzha.Mukurthi Peak elevation: 2554 m.(8,379 ft.) Park elevation varies from 1,500 m (4,921 ft) to 2,629 m (8,625 ft), with Kollaribetta 2,629 m (8,625 ft), Mukurthi 2,554 m (8,379 ft), and Nilgiri 2,476 m (8,123 ft) being the highest peaks. With elevations greater than the general level of the plateau, the range possesses some peaks close to the height of Doddabetta, just east of Ooty. Avalanche hill of this range has twin-peaks of the Kudikkadu (height: 2,590 metres (8,497 ft)) and the Kolaribetta. Derbetta (or Bear Hill) (height: 2,531 metres (8,304 ft)) and Kolibetta (height: 2,494 metres (8,182 ft)), south of the Ouchterlony valley, are a continuation of the Kundah range.

These 3 hills of the Wayanad district are generally low in relation to other heights of the district; but are distinguished in relation to the generally uniform level of this area. Important peaks in the southwest Sispara/Bangitipal part of the park are Sispara (height: 2,206 metres (7,238 ft)) Anginda(height: 2,383 metres (7,818 ft)), Nadugani (height: 0 metres (0 ft)) and Gulkal (height: 2,468 metres (8,097 ft)). The park has a harsh environment with annual rainfall varying from 2010 mm to 6330 mm (79–249 inches), night temperature usually below freezing in the winter and wind speeds ranging up to 120 km/h (75 mph).

Fauna

Several threatened mammal species live here including Nilgiri Tahr, Indian elephant, Bengal Tiger, Nilgiri Marten, Nilgiri langur and Bonhote's Mouse. Mukurthi is near the northern end of the range of the Nilgiri Tahr. A 3 day census in March 2007 estimated 200 Tahrs in the park including 60 young ones sighted. There are also Leopard, Bonnet macaque, Sambar deer, Barking deer, Mouse Deer, Otter, Jungle cat, Small Indian Civet, Wild dog, Jackal, Black-naped Hare, Common Rat, Shrew, Malabar Spiny Dormouse and Soft-furred Rat.Avifauna consists mostly of hill birds including the threatened Laughing thrush, Whistling Thrush, Woodcock, Wood Pigeon, Black-and-orange Flycatcher, Nilgiri Flycatcher, Grey Headed Flycatcher Black Bulbul, White-eye, Nilgiri Pipit. The predatory Black-winged Kite, Kestrel and Black Eagle may be seen in the grasslands.The area is home to many species of reptiles such as the Geckos Dwarf Gecko spp. and Nilgiri Salea Salea horsfieldii, the snakes Horseshoe Pit Viper, Olivaceaous Keelback, Oligodon taeniolatus, Oligodon venustus, Bronze-headed Vine Snake and several Shieldtails of which Perrotet's Shieldtail is most common. Some amphibians here are the Common Indian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus), Bufo beddomii, Bufo microtympanum and many species of Tree Frogs including Micrixalus opisthorhodus and Rana limnocharisButterflies with Himalayan affinity like the Blue Admiral, Indian Red Admiral, Indian Fritillary, Indian Cabbage white and Hedge blues are seen here. Some streams had been stocked with exotic Rainbow Trout in the past.

Flora

The area is home to numerous endemic plants particularly of the scapigerous annual Impatiens plants. Alchemilla indica and Hedyotis verticillaris are found only within or on the fringes of this park. Rhododendrons, Rhododendron arboreum the national flower of Nepal or Rhododendron nilagiricum, are seen throughout the grasslands and very large specimens are conspicuous around many sholas. The natural habitats of the park have been much disturbed by previously easy motor vehicle access through four different entry points and extensive commercial planting and natural spreading of non-native eucalyptus and wattle (Acacia dealbata, Acacia mearnsii and other species). In addition there is one large, and several smaller hydro-electric impoundments in the area. The nearest airport is Coimbatore – 140 km. The nearest Railway station is Udhagamandalam – 45 km. The best seasons are February to May and September to November.

Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary

Wynad Wildlife Sanctuary is located in in Wayanad district, Kerala, south India. It is on the way from Mysore to Sultan Battery. Wild animals such as Indian Bison, elephant, deer and tiger has been spotted. There are also quite a few wild birds in the sanctuary.Peacocks and Peafowl tend to be very common in the area.It is spread over 344 km² and is about 16 km east of Sultan Battery, the nearest large town.The sanctuary is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The Western Ghats, Nilgiri Sub-Cluster (6,000+ km²), including all of the sanctuary, is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.

Water hole at Muthanga

The flora of Wayanad are characteristic of the Western Ghats and the plantation crops grown in the cool climate. A major portion of the district is covered by coffee. Trees of the wild type like rose-wood, anjili (Artocarpus), mullumurikku (Erthrina), several species of caussia and many other non-descript varieties are still preserved here and there, to give shade to the coffee plants. These trees give a semblance of wilderness to the landscape of Wayanad. In a majority of coffee plantations, the age-old species are replaced by the silver-oak which is suited to the cold climate. This tree grows quickly and its cultivation is widespread among coffee plantations for shade and for giving support to pepper. It is used for the plywood industry and thus is economical to the farmers. Eucalyptus grandis, a shorter variety of eucalyptus, whose fragrant smell suffuses the very air around it, is cultivated on a large scale in centain parts of the district. Eucalyptus oil is extracted on commercial basis from its leaves. Of the 20,864 hectares of reserve forest, the major portion is teak plantation. Arecanut palms and jack trees are also grown here. Tea is grown as an industry in large estates. With the clearing of forests, the diverse and buzzling animal life, characteristic of the forests of Western Ghats, has vanished from Wayanad. One can still see the bonnet monkeys, loris, mongooses, jungle cats, squirrels, jackals, hares, etc. in the limited forest areas. Elephant, bear and other wild animals from the neighbouring wildlife sanctuaries of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, stray into the Begur forest range and the forests around Muthanga, which is 20 kilometres away from the town of Sulthan Bathery.

Silent Valley National Park

Silent Valley National Park (Core zone: 89.52 square kilometres (35 sq mi)) is located in the Nilgiri Hills, Palakkad district, Kerala, in South India. The area under this national park was historically explored in 1847 by the botanist Robert Wight, and is associated with Hindu legend.The park is one of the last undisturbed tracts of South Western Ghats montane rain forests and tropical moist evergreen forest in India. Contiguous with the proposed Karimpuzha National Park (225 km²) to the north and Mukurthi National Park (78.46 km²) to the north-east, it is the core of the Nilgiri International Biosphere Reserve (1,455.4 km²), and is part of The Western Ghats World Heritage Site, Nilgiri Sub-Cluster (6,000+ km²) under consideration by UNESCO.Plans for a hydroelectric project that threatened the park's high diversity of wildlife stimulated an environmentalist Social Movement in the 1970s called Save Silent Valley which resulted in cancellation of the project and creation of the park in 1980. The visitors' centre for the park is at Sairandhri.

Lion-tailed macaque

There is a perceived absence of noisy Cicadas and hence the name 'Silent Valley'. Another story attributes the name to the anglicisation of Sairandhri. A third story, refers to the presence there of many Lion-Tailed Macaques Macaca silenus. In 1914 the forest of the Silent Valley area was declared a Reserve Forest, however, from 1927 to 1976 portions of the Silent Valley forest area were subjected to forestry operations

Lion-tailed Macaque

Silent Valley is home to the largest population of Lion-tailed Macaque. Public controversy over their habitat led to establishment of Silent Valley National Park. In 1973 the valley became the focal point of "Save Silent Valley", India's fiercest environmental debate of the decade, when the Kerala State Electricity Board decided to implement the Silent Valley Hydro-Electric Project (SVHEP) centered on a dam across the Kunthipuzha River. The resulting reservoir would flood 8.3 km² of virgin rainforest and threaten the endangered Lion-tailed macaque. In 1976 the Kerala State Electricity Board announced plans to begin dam construction and the issue was brought to public attention.In 1983 the Hon. Prime Minister of India decided to abandon the Project and on November 15 the Silent Valley forests were declared as a National Park. On September 7, 1985 the Silent Valley National Park was formally inaugurated. On September 1, 1986 Silent Valley National Park was designated as the core area of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Since then, a long-term conservation effort has been undertaken to preserve the Silent Valley ecosystem.

In 2001 a new hydro project was proposed and the "Man vs. Monkey debate" was revived. The proposed site of the dam (64.5 m high and 275 m long) is just 3.5 km downstream of the old dam site at Sairandhiri, 500 m outside the National Park boundary.

Geography

Silent Valley is rectangular, 7 km (east-west) X 12 km (north-south). Located between 11o03’ to 11o13’ N latitude and 76o21’ to 76o35’ E longitude it is separated from the eastern and northern high altitude plateaus of the (Nilgiris Mountains) by high continuous ridges including Sispara Peak (2,206 m) at the north end of the park. The park gradually slopes southward down to the Palakkad plains and to the west it is bounded by irregular ridges. The altitude of the park ranges from 658 m to 2328 m at Anginda Peak, but most of the park lies within the altitude range of 880 m to 1200 m. Soils are blackish and slightly acidic in evergreen forests where there is good accumulation of organic matter. The underlying rock in the area is granite with schists and gneiss, which give rise to the loamy laterite soils on slopes.

Attappady Tribal Chief

Tribes

There is no record the valley has ever been settled, but the Mudugar and Irula tribal people are indigenous to the area and do live in the adjacent valley of Attappady Reserved Forest. Also, the Kurumbar people occupy the highest range outside the park bordering on the Nilgiris.
FloraValley areas of the park are in a Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests Ecoregion. Hilly areas above 1,000 m are in a South Western Ghats montane rain forests region. Above 1,500 m, the evergreen forests begin to give way to stunted forests, called sholas, interspersed with open grassland. Both are very important to naturalists, biologists and other researchers because the rich biodiversity here has never been disturbed by human settlements. Several threatened species are endemic here. New plant and animal species are often discovered here.

Birds

Birdlife International lists 16 bird species in Silent Valley as threatened or restricted: Nilgiri Wood-pigeon, Malabar Parakeet, Malabar Grey Hornbill, White-bellied Treepie, Grey-headed Bulbul, Broad-tailed Grassbird, Rufous Babbler, Wynaad Laughing Thrush, Nilgiri Laughing Thrush, White-bellied Shortwing, Black-and-rufous Flycatcher, Nilgiri Flycatcher, White-bellied Blue-flycatcher, Crimson-backed Sunbird and Nilgiri pipit.Rare bird species found here include Ceylon Frogmouth and Great Indian Hornbill. The 2006 winter bird survey discovered Long-legged Buzzard, a new species of raptor at Sispara, the park's highest peak. The survey found 10 endangered species recorded in the IUCN Red List including the Red winged crested cuckoo, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Pale harrier. The area is home to 15 endemic species including the Black-and-orange Flycatcher. It recorded 138 species of birds including 17 species that were newly observed in the Silent Valley area. The most abundant bird was the Black bulbul.

Mammals

There are at least 34 species of mammals at Silent Valley including the threatened Lion-tailed Macaque, Niligiri Langur, Malabar Giant Squirrel, Nilgiri Tahr, Peshwa’s Bat (Myotis peshwa) and Hairy-winged Bat. There are nine species of bats, rats and mice.The Silent Valley forest remains one of the most undisturbed viable habitats left for the endemic and endangered primates lion-tailed macaque and Nilgiri langur.The tiger, leopard (panther), leopard cat, jungle cat, fishing cat, Common Palm Civet, Small Indian Civet, Brown Palm Civet, Ruddy Mongoose, Stripe-necked Mongoose, Dhole, clawless otter, sloth bear, small Travancore flying squirrel, Indian pangolin (scaly anteater), porcupine, wild boar, sambar, spotted deer, barking deer, mouse deer and gaur also live here.

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