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Kalakkad & Mundanthurai Wildlife Sanctuaries
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Surrounded by the Agasthyamalai hills, the Kalakad Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1976 covering an area of 223.58 sq km. The Mundanthurai Sanctuary was established in 1977 covering an area of 567.38. Both these sanctuaries, situated in the Kalakad and Mudanthurai districts of Tamil Nadu, together form the Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve covering a total area of 790.96 sq km. The reserve lies between the longitudes 77°10'16.75"E to 77°33'45.58"E and latitudes 8°21'35.38"N to 8°52'49.98"N. Elevation ranges between 82-1,826 m while annual rainfall averages 2,279 mm. This is one of the few regions in the Western Ghats where the rainy season lasts for nearly eight months. The Agasthyamalai peak at 1,681 m falls within this reserve and is the third highest peak in South India. As many as 14 rivers and streams run through the forests including rivers like Tambraparani, Ramanadi, Karayar, Servalar, Manimuthar, Pachayar, Kodaiyar, Kadnar and Kallar.

Some of the forest types seen in this protected area include southern hill top tropical evergreen forests, west coast tropical evergreen forests, Tirunelveli semi-evergreen forests, southern dry mixed deciduous forests and southern moist mixed deciduous forests. Other forest types seen in this sanctuary include Carnatic umbrella thorn forests, Ochlandra reeds, tropical riparian fringe forests, Euphorbiaceous scrub, high/ low altitude grasslands and dry teak forests

Nearly 50% of all flora endemic to the Western Ghats is found here and floral diversity is very high with atleast 2,000 identified species of plants (Ganesh et al. 1996). Species of trees seen at medium elevation i.e. altitudes of 700-1,400 m in the evergreen forests include Cullenia exarillata-Mesua ferrea-Palaquium ellipticum types, which has a plant endemism of nearly 43% (Pascal 1988). Other tree species found at this altitude are Gluta travancorica types, Nageia wallichiana facies and Ochlandra reeds. The dry deciduous forests have a predominance of Albizia amara, Acacia spp., Gyrocarpus jacquini, Anogeissus latifolia- Pterocarpus marsupium-Terminalia species type. Other tree species predominant in the dry evergreen forests include Diospyros foliolosa, Mitreophora heyneana, Hopea utilis and Miliusa species (Ramesh et al. 1997).

As many as 77 species of mammals, 133 species of fish, 32 species of amphibians and, 81 species of reptiles live in this sanctuary (Johnsingh 2001). From flagship species like tigers (Panthera tigris) and Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) to Indian bison or gaur (Bos gaurus), leopards (Panthera pardus), sambar (Cervus unicolor) and chital or spotted deer (Axis axis), all the charismatic species of the Western Ghats can be found in this sanctuary. This protected area is one of the few places in the Western Ghats where, five species of endangered primates can be found. These include the lion-tailed macaque (Macaca silenus), Nilgiri langur (Trachypithecus johnii), common langur (Semnopithecus entellus), bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata) and slender loris (Loris lyddekerianus). With nearly 4,000 lion-tailed macaques, the forests of this sanctuary have the country's largest population of these endangered primates (MoEF Report 2006). Other mammalian inhabitants found here are the mouse deer (Moschiola meminna), rusty spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus), brown palm civet (Paradoxurus jerdoni), Indian giant squirrel (Petaurista philippensis), Nilgiri martens (Martes gwatkinsi), Indian pangolins (Manis crassicaudata) and Indian giant squirrel (Ratufa indica). The sanctuary is also home to 17 species of bats, three species of rodents and three species of shrews (MoEF Report 2006).

Recognised as an Important Bird Area as many as 278 species of birds have been identified in this sanctuary (MoEF Report 2006). 'Vulnerable' species like the Nilgiri wood-pigeon (Columba elphinstonii), white-bellied shortwing (Brachypteryx major) and eight 'Near threatened' species like red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus), Nilgiri pipit (Anthus nilghiriensis), black and orange flycatcher (Ficedula nigrorufa) and Nilgiri flycatcher (Eumyias albicaudata) are recorded from here.

Nearly 15 of the 16 species of birds endemic to the Western Ghats can be seen here (Ali and Ripley 1987, Grimmet et al. 1987). However, despite the presence of a dense habitat, birds like the great pied hornbill (Buceros bicornis) and greater grey-headed fish-eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus) are still rare in this sanctuary (Joshua and Johnsingh 1988).

Some interesting species of amphibians found in this sanctuary include, the black narrow-mouth frog (Melanobatrachus indicus), which was rediscovered after 100 years in Kakachi (Vasudevan 1997) and an arboreal skink (Dasia halianus) (Johnsingh and Joshua 1989). Species of biological and ecological importance seen here include Calotes andamanensis, Cochin forest cane turtle (Geoemyda sylvatica), Anaimalai gecko (Hemidactylus anamallensis) and Indian kangaroo lizard (Otocryptis beddomi) (Johnsingh 2001, Vasudevan 2000, Ishwar 2001, Ishwar et al. 2001, Vasudevan et al . 2001). Many rare and endemic species of hill stream fish too have been discovered. In 2002, Arunachalam and Johnsingh reported the discovery of a rare species of fish called Puntius kannikattiensis.

Threats to this arise from livestock grazing, poaching and firewood collection. Overgrazing by cattle is a serious problem. Nearly 50,000 cattle in the villages within a radius of 5 km on the eastern boundary of the sanctuary graze in the adjacent forest land (Joshua and Johnsingh 2004).

A few Kaani tribals residing here and other surrounding protected areas have been employed by the Forest Department to keep watch over the forest. Nearly 50 sq km of forest land are jointly patrolled by a forest guard and forest watcher, often a Kaani tribal (PA Update 2002).

References

Ali, S. and Ripley, S.D. 1987. Compact Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan (Second Edition). Oxford University Press, Delhi, India.

Arunachalam, M. and Johnson, J.A. 2002. A new species of Puntius Hamilton (Pisces: Cyprinidae) from Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 99(3): 474-480.

Ganesh, T., Ganesan, R., Devy, M. S., Davidar, P., and Bawa, K. S. 1996. Assessment of plant biodiversity at a mid-elevation evergreen forest of Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Western Ghats, India. Current Science. 71: 379-392.

Grimmet, R., Inskipp C. and Inskipp T. 1988. Birds of the Indian Subcontinent. Christopher Helm, London, UK.

Ishwar, N. M. 2001. Reptilian species distribution in response to habitat fragmentation and microhabitats in the rainforests of southern Western Ghats, India. Ph.D. Thesis, F.R.I deemed University, Dehra Dun, India.

Ishwar, N. M., Chellam, R. and Kumar, A. 2001. Distribution of forest floor reptiles in the rainforest of Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, South India. Current Science. 80: 413-418.

Islam, M. Z and Rahmani, A. R. 2004. Important bird areas in India: Priority sites for conservation. Indian Bird Conservation Network: Bombay Natural History Society and Birdlife International, UK. 1133 pp.

Johnsingh, A.J.T. and Joshua, J. 1989. Biol Conservation. 47:273-280.

Joshua, J. and Johnsingh, A.J.T. 1988. Observation on birds in Mundanthurai Plateau. Tamil Nadu. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 85(3):565-577.

Joshua, J. and Johnsingh, A. J. T. 2004. Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. In: Important Bird Areas in India: Priority sites for conservation (Islam, M. Z. and Rahmani, A. R).Indian Bird Conservation Network: Bombay Natural History Society and Birdlife International, UK. pp 960-961.

Johnsingh, A.J.T. 2001. The Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve: A global heritage of biological diversity. Current Science. 80 (3): 378-388.

Menon, V. 2003. A field guide to Indian mammals. DK (India) Pvt Ltd and Penguin Book India (P) Ltd. 201 pp.

Pascal, J. P. 1988. Wet evergreen forests of the Western Ghats of India: ecology, structure, floristic composition and succession. Institut Franšais de PondichÚry, Pondicherry, India.

PA Update. 2002. 'Kaani tribals prove their mettle as forest watchers'. August (38).

Stattersfield A.J., Crosby, M.J., Long, A.J. and Wege, D.C. 1998. Endemic Bird Areas of the World: Priorities for Biodiversity Conservation. BirdLife Conservation Series No 7. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.

Ramesh, B. R., Menon, S., and Bawa, K. S. 1997. A vegetation-based approach to biodiversity gap analysis in the Agasthyamalai Region, Western Ghats, India. Ambio. 26: 529-536.

Ramesh, B.R., Franceschi, D. and Pascal, J.P. 1997. Forest map of South India: Thirvananthapuram-Tirunelveli. French Institute, Pondicherry, India.

Vasudevan, K.J. 1997. Rediscovery of the Black Microhylid Frog Meanobrachas indicus (Beddone 1878). Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society .94:170-171.

Vasudevan, K. 2000. Amphibian species assemblages of the wet evergreen forests of Southern Western Ghats of India and the effect of forest fragmentation on their diversity. Thesis submitted to Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, India.

Vasudevan, K., Kumar, A. and Chellam, R. 2001. Structure and composition of rainforest floor amphibian communities in Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. Current Science. 80: 406-412.

For further reading: Selected references on KMTR: Published in the Feb 2001 Issue of Current Science

Ali, R. and Pai, A. 2001. Human use areas in the Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. Current Science. 80(3): 448.

Devy, S. and Davidar, P. 2001. Response of wet forest butterflies to selective logging in Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve: Implications for conservation. Current Science. 80(3): 400-405.

Dutt, S.2001. Beyond 2000: A management vision for the Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. Current Science. 80(3): 442-447.

Ganesh, T. and Davidar, P. 2001. Dispersal modes of tree species in the wet forests of southern Western Ghats. Current Science. 80(3): 394-399.

Ishwar, N.M., Chellam, R. and Kumar, A .2001. Distribution of forest floor reptiles in the rainforest of Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, South India. Current Science. 80(3): 406-412.

Johnsingh, J.T. 2001. The Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve: A global heritage of biological diversity. Current Science. 80(3): 378-388.

Katti, M. 2001. Vocal communication and territoriality during the non-breeding season in migrant warbler. Current Science. 80(3): 419-423.

Melkani, V.K. 2001. Involving local people in biodiversity conservation in the Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve-An overview. Current Science. 80(3): 437-441.

Mudappa, D., Kumar, A. and Chellam, R. 2001. Abundance and habitat selection of the Malabar spiny dormouse in the rainforests of the southern Western Ghats, India. Current Science. 80(3): 424-427.

Parthasarathy, N. 2001.Changes in forest composition and structure in three sites of tropical evergreen forest around Senglatheri, Western Ghats. Current Science. 80(3): 389-393.

Sunderraj, W. and Johnsingh, A.J.T. 2001. Impact of biotic disturbances on Nilgiri langur habitat, demography and group dynamics. Current Science. 80(3): 428-436.

Vasudevan, K., Kumar, A .and Chellam, R. 2001. Structure and composition of rainforest floor amphibian communities in Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. Current Science. 80(3): 406-412.

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