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Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary
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In the 1960s, three dams were constructed in Kerala's Idukki district as part of the Idukki Hydroelectric Project. Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1976 around the 33 sq km reservoir to protect it from siltation (Islam and Rahmani 2004). Covering 70 sq km, it lies between the latitudes of 9o42'54.29"N and 9o51'21.85"N and longitudes of 76o53'4.2"E and 77o6'8.64"E. The sanctuary is not immediately connected to any other natural forests. The closest reserve forest is in the Cardamom hills. The sanctuary is surrounded by agricultural land, tea and cardamom estates. It has an altitudinal range of 565-1,264 m (SRTM 2003), with an average annual rainfall of 2,200 mm (Islam and Rahmani 2004).

The major vegetation types found in the sanctuary are medium elevation evergreen (Cullenia exarillata-Mesua ferrea-Palaquium ellipticum type), low elevation degraded evergreen and teak plantations (Ramesh et al. 1997). Grasslands can be found in some high elevation areas. The Forest Department has, however, pursued a policy of planting eucalyptus in grasslands which has reduced the area under this habitat type (Islam and Rahmani 2004).

While there is still a lack of data on bird species from this sanctuary, it has been designated as an Important Bird Area owing to the presence of 11 out of 16 Western Ghats endemics and five globally threatened species. Surveys have recorded a total of 219 species. Among these are the Nilgiri wood-pigeon (Columba elphinstonii) a globally threatened and endemic bird, black-and-orange flycatcher (Ficedula nigrorufa) and Nilgiri flycatcher (Eumyias albicaudata). The great pied hornbill (Buceros bicornis) also occurs in these forests (Islam and Rahmani 2004).

A number of globally threatened mammals are present in this sanctuary including, Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), tiger (Panthera tigris), wild dog (Cuon alpinus), Nilgiri langur (Trachypithecus johnii), slender loris (Loris lydekkerianus) and Indian giant flying squirrel (Petaurista philippensis). A study on reptilian diversity has reported 32 species from this area (Islam and Rahmani 2004). The main threats to Idukki come from the densely settled landscape around it. Tea estate labourers frequently enter the forests to graze their cattle and collect fuelwood and other non-timber forest products. The grasslands in particular are under threat as they have been subject to exotic plantations of eucalyptus by the Forest Department and regular burning by graziers. The latter has the effect of changing species composition. Illegal encroachment on forest land by erstwhile dam construction labourers has become a contentious political issue (Islam and Rahmani 2004).


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, Mumbai, India.

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

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

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