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Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary
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The Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary established in 1976 in Tamil Nadu and spread over an area of over 841.49 sq km is one of India's largest protected areas. It is located in Coimbatore district and was earlier known as Annamalai Wildlife Sanctuary. The boundaries of this protected area extend to three taluks of Pollachi, Vaalpaarai and Udumalpet in Coimbatore district.

The sanctuary occupies a huge stretch of forest land that lies between the longitudes 76o49'2.5"E to 77o19'26.65"E and latitudes 10o13'7.86"N to 10o33'25.63"N. Elevation ranges between 285-2,280 m and annual rainfall received is around 2,340 mm. The protected area serves as a meeting point for many of Kerala's important rivers and underground canals. These include the rivers Konalar, Varagaliar, Karuneerar, Chinnar and Amaravathi and reservoirs like Upper Aliyar, Kadamparai, Upper and Lower Nirar, Thirumurthy and Parambikulam, which extend into the sanctuary.

Vegetation consists of tropical evergreen rainforests, tropical montane forests, grasslands and moist dry deciduous forests (Kumar et al. 2004). At low elevations tree species like Dipterocarpus indicus-Dipterocarpus bourdilloni- Strombosia ceylanica types along with Ochlandra reeds predominate the evergreen forests. At medium altitudes, species like Cullenia exarillata-Mesua ferrea-Palaquium ellipticum types dominate the landscape. At high elevations it is species like Bhesa indica- Gomphandra coriacea-Litsea spp. types along with the shola grasslands that are commonly seen (Franceschi et al. 2002). In the moist deciduous forests, tree species like Lagerstroemia microcarpa, Tectona grandis and Dillenia pentagyna can be seen in large numbers. The dry deciduous forests have a high density of species like Albizia amara, Acacia sp. and Gyrocarpus jacquini on the slopes. Tree species like Anogeissus latifolia, Pterocarpus marsupium and Terminalia spp. can also be seen here (Franceschi et al. 2002). Other species of trees seen here include Michelia nilagirica, Rhododendron arboreaum, Cymbopogon spp., Bambusa arundinacea and Dendrocalamus strictus (Kumar et al. 2004). Besides this plantations of teak, cinchona, rubber, coffee and tea can be found scattered all over the sanctuary (Franceschi et al. 2002, Kumar et al. 2004).

Designated as a Project Tiger Reserve as well as a Project Elephant Sanctuary, the Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary has a variety of carnivores and herbivores, both large and small. Flagship species like the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and Nilgiri tahr (Hermitragus hylocrius) are present in large numbers (Rodgers and Panwar 1988). Nearly one out of two Nilgiri tahrs found in India live in this sanctuary. The sanctuary provides a good living space for tigers (Panthera tigris), leopards (Panthera pardus) and other felines like the jungle cats (Felix chaus) and the rare rusty-spotted cats (Prionailurus rubiginosus). High up in the canopy of the evergreen forests are found lion-tailed macaques (Macaca silenus), one of the world's most endangered primates.

Other mammalian inhabitants include the small Indian civet (Viverricula indica), common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), grey mongoose (Herpestes edwardsii), stripe-necked mongoose (Herpestes vitticollis), ruddy mongoose (Herpestes smithii), slender loris (Loris lyddekerianus), red giant flying squirrels (Petaurista petaurista) , Travancore flying squirrel (Petinomys fuscocapillus), dusky striped squirrel (Funambulus sublineatus) and three-striped palm squirrels (Funambulus palmarum). Other species like the Nilgiri langur (Trachypithecus johni), mouse deer (Moschiola meminna), brown mongoose (Herpestes brachyurus) are also found here. The forests and grasslands also provide shelter to wild dogs (Canis lupis), jackals (Canis aureus), gaurs (Bos gaurus), sambar (Cervus unicolor) and barking deer (Muntiacus muntjak) (Prater 1980, Ashraf et al. 1993, Kumar et al. 2004).

Recognised as an Important Bird Area (IBA), nearly 218 species of birds have been sighted here. The sanctuary is an important breeding ground for the 'Vulnerable' species Nilgiri wood-pigeon (Columba elphinstonii), and the 'Near threatened' great pied hornbill (Buceros bicornis) as well as the uncommon Ceylon frogmouth (Batrachostomus moniliger) (Sivakumaran and Rahmani 2002). Two other 'Vulnerable' species, the white-bellied shortwing (Brachypteryx major) and the broad-tailed grass warbler (Schoenicola platyura) and five other 'Near threatened' species the darter (Anhinga melanogaster), pallid harrier (Circus macrourus), Nilgiri pipit (Anthus nilghiriensis), black and orange flycatcher (Ficedula nigrorufa) and Nilgiri flycatcher (Eumyias albicaudata) are recorded from here.

The park is an also an important breeding place for two species of hornbills - the Malabar grey (Ocyceros griseus) and great hornbills (Buceros bicornis) and has one of the highest densities of hornbills (>50 birds/sq km) in India (MoEF Report 2006). Nearly 15 of the 16 birds endemic to the Western Ghats make their home in this sanctuary (Raman 2001, Sivakumaran and Rahmani 2002). These include the Wynaad laughingthrush (Garullax delesserti), white-bellied treepies (Dendrocitta leucogastra), India rufous babblers (Turdoides subrufus) and the grey-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus priocephalus). The IBA lies in the Biome-10 (Indian Peninsula Tropical Moist Forest) and ten of the fifteen species listed in this biome are recorded from here (Raman 2001, Sivakumaran and Rahmani 2002).

The sanctuary also has a rich diversity of both reptile as well as insect life.

As many as 5,000 Adivasis belonging to tribes like Kadars, Malasars, Malai Malasars, Pulayars, Muduvars and the Eravallars live in 36 settlements inside this sanctuary. Organic farming is an important livelihood for the tribal communities (Kumar et al. 2004).

Major threats to the biodiversity of this sanctuary include poaching, tourism, commercial plantations and encroachments (Kumar et al. 2004).

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