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Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary
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This is the northernmost protected area in the state of Kerala. Covering 55 sq km, it is located between the latitudes of 11o53'3.48"N and 11o59'9.24"N and longitudes of 75o47'9.24"E to 75o56'25.44"E. It lies in Kannur district, adjacent to Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary of Karnataka, creating a contiguous protected forest area of 236 sq km. The sanctuary has an elevation range of 82-1,145m, with the highest point located at Katti Betta. The rainfall averages 3,423 mm annually (SRTM 2003, Krishnaswamy et al. in prep). The Cheenkannipuzha river forms the main drainage system on the southern side. Other major rivers are the Narikkadavuthodu, Kurukkathodu and Meenumuttithodu, which flow from the northern upper reaches southwards to join Cheenkannipuzha.

The major forest types found here are low elevation evergreen (Dipterocarpus indicus-Kingiodendron pinnatum-Humboldtia brunonis type), medium elevation evergreen (Cullenia exarillata-Mesua ferrea-Palaquium ellipticum type), and secondary moist deciduous. There are also about 4.9 sq km of teak and eucalyptus plantations within the sanctuary boundaries (Pascal et al. 1982).

Aralam has been recognised as an Important Bird Area with 190 species recorded from here. These include 12 out of the 16 species endemic to the Western Ghats such as the globally threatened Nilgiri wood-pigeon (Columba elphinstonii) and the Nilgiri flycatcher (Eumyias albicaudata). Three species of hornbill inhabit these forests, the Malabar grey hornbill (Ocyceros griseus), Malabar pied hornbill (Anthracoceros coronatus) and great pied hornbill (Buceros bicornis). Other interesting birds found here include-Ceylon frogmouth (Batrachostomus moniliger), black baza (Aviceda leuphotes), rufous-bellied eagle (Hieraaetus kienerii), grey-breasted laughing-thrush (Garrulax jerdoni) and black-and-orange flycatcher (Ficedula nigrorufa) (Islam and Rahmani 2004).

There has been no official wildlife census for this sanctuary, so the status of wild animal populations is not yet known. However, large and wide-ranging mammals such as tiger (Panthera tigris), Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), wild dog (Cuon alpinus) and gaur (Bos gaurus) occur here. Primates include bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata), lion-tailed macaque (Macaca silenus), Nilgiri langur (Trachypithecus johnii) and slender loris (Loris lydekkerianus).

Thirty-three species of fish are reported from this protected area, including several Western Ghat endemics (Shaji et al. 1995). In 2005 north Kerala's first eco-tourism venture was launched in this sanctuary with an investment of about Rs. 10 lakh by the Tourism Department. Managed by the local tribal communities with support from Kerala Forest Department, it includes activities like short hikes, overnight treks, rafting and coracle rides on a section of the Cheenkannipuzha river (PA Update 2005).

The population of tribal people living within the sanctuary is only 60 and is distributed across four settlements (Islam and Rahmani 2004).

The major threats to this sanctuary are poaching and fuelwood collection (Islam and Rahmani 2004).


SRTM 2003. Shuttle Radar Topography Mission Digital Elevation Data, 3 ArcSecond,

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.

Krishnaswamy, J., Mehta, V., Kiran MC. Interpolation of annual rainfall data of Western Ghats using ordinary kriging.(in prep.)

PA Update .2005. Eco-tourism project at Aralam WLS. June (55):10

Pascal, J.P., Shyam Sundar, S. and Meher-Homji, V.M. 1982. Forest map of South India: Mercara-Mysore. French Institute, Pondicherry, India.

Shaji, C.P., Easa, P.S. and Basha, S.C. 1995. Freshwater fish diversity in Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala, South India. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 92(3):360-363.

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