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Mukurthi National Park
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Mukurthi National Park, cradled in the southeastern corner of the Nilgiris plateau, is famous for being the land of the Nilgiri tahr (Hermitragus hylocrius), rhododendrons and picturesque landscapes. Established in 1990 and located in the Nilgiris district the park forms a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. It encompasses an area of 78.46 sq km and has an elevation ranging from 1,373-2,618 m. The park lies between longitudes 76o26'21.84"E to 76o33'51.19"E and latitudes 11o11'14.5"E to 11o23'18.53"E and receives an annual rainfall of 1,998 mm. Water sources for the park in addition to the Upper Bhavani and Mukurthi reservoirs include several streams andmajor rivers like the Billithadahalla, Pykara and Kundah.

Vegetation type consists of montane wet temperate forest, shola grasslands and wattle plantations (Franceschi et al. 2002). Bushy patches of bright, red rhododendrons provide a vibrant contrast to the emerald, green backdrop of undulating grasslands and shola forests.

The Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) can be seen crossing the park during the monsoon on their annual migration to the northern plains. Besides elephants and tigers (Panthera tigris), the Nilgiri tahr , once seen in large numbers here, can still be spotted as small herds in the Western Catchment Area. Sloth bear (Melursus ursinus), black-naped hare (Lepus nigricollis), wild pig (Sus scrofa) and jackals (Canis aureus) are also resident in this park. Other mammalian inhabitants include the Nilgiri langur (Trachypithecus johnii), Nilgiri marten (Martes gwatkinsi), leopard (Panthera pardus), wild dog (Cuon alpinus), barking deer (Muntiacus muntjak), sambar (Cervus unicolor), small Indian civet (Viverricula indica), brown palm civet (Paradoxurus jerdoni), otters (Lutra sp.) and stripe-necked mongoose (Herpestes vitticollis) (Zarri and Ansari 2004).

Recognised as an Important Bird Area nearly 120 species of birds have been recorded here. These include the 'Endangered' Nilgiri laughingthrush (Garrulax cachinnans), 'Vulnerable' Nilgiri wood-pigeon (Columba elphinstonii) and white-bellied shortwing (Brachypteryx major) and the 'Near threatened' Nilgiri pipit (Anthus nilghiriensis), black and orange flycatcher (Ficedula nigrorufa) and the Nilgiri flycatcher (Eumyias albicaudata). Another endemic found here is the small sunbird (Nectarinia minima). The grasslands of the park are vital for the conservation of wintering raptors such as the Oriental honey-buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus), white-eyed buzzard (Butastur teesa), crested serpent eagle (Spilornis cheela) and short-toed snake eagle (Circaetus gallicus) (Zarri et al. 2002, Zarri and Rahmani 2004).

Butterflies like the blue admiral (Kaniska kanace), Indian red admiral (Vanessa indica), Indian cabbage white (Pieris canidia), common hedge blue (Actolipis puspa), Indian fritillary (Argyreus hyperbius) and the southern birdwing (Troides minos) thrive in this national park. An interesting observation is that many of the butterflies seen here bear a strong resemblance to those seen in the Himalayas.

Disturbances to the habitat include the Mukurthi dam at the foothills where the Pykara hydro electricity scheme is located. Commercial plantations of eucalyptus, tea, coffee and fruit orchards like oranges have seriously disturbed the floral biodiversity of this protected area. Other threats include colonisation by invasive species like Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) and Ulex europia. Burning of grasslands by local communities for illegal hunting of sambar is another serious threat (Zarri and Rahmani 2004).

Other causes for disturbances include commercial film shooting and the consequential littering. The Forest Department's policy of undertaking forest regeneration drives with exotic species of flora like wattle and blue gum is another serious hindrance to the maintenance of the biodiversity of this protected area. Poaching, illegal trespassing and forest fires intentionally caused by humans are other serious threats to the biodiversity of this sanctuary (Zarri and Rahmani 2004).


Champion, H.G. and Seth, S.K .1968. A revised survey of the forest types of India. Government of India Press, Nasik, India .

Franceschi, D., Ramesh, B.R. and Pascal, J.P. 2002. Forest map of South India: Coimbatore-Thrissur. French Institute, Pondicherry, India.

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.

Zarri, A.A. and Rahmani, A.R. 2004. Mukurthi National Park (Nilgiris). In: Directory of national parks and sanctuaries in Karnataka: Management status and profiles. Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi, India. pp 975-975.

Zarri, A.A., Rahmani, A.R. and Senthilmurugan, S. 2002. Ecology of shola and alpine grasslands. Annual Report: 2. Part 1. Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai, India.

List of butterflies of India. Nymphalidae. of butterflies of India (Nymphalidae). Accessed on 11 January 2008.

Kunte, K. 2000. Butterflies of Peninsular India. Universities Press, Hyderabad, India. 254 pp.

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