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Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary
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Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary is the southernmost of Kerala's protected areas. It lies in Thiruvanathapuram district between the latitudes of 8o29'42.22"N and 8o37'42.85"N and longitudes of 77o9'39.24"E and 77o17'7.8"E. Encompassing the catchment forests of Neyyar dam, the sanctuary lies adjacent to Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary and Tamil Nadu's Kalakkad Mundunthurai Tiger Reserve. It covers 128 sq km and forms an integral part of the 1,262 sq km block of contiguous protected forest in the Agastyamalai hills of the Western Ghats. The altitude ranges from 76-1,868 m and the average annual rainfall is 3,521 mm (SRTM 2003, Krishnaswamy et al. in prep). The Agastyamalai peak, which is the highest in the southernmost range of the Western Ghats, is located within this protected area. The Neyyar, Kallar and Mullayar are the main rivers flowing through this area. The sanctuary receives precipitation from both the northeast and the southwest monsoon and has a mean annual rainfall of 2,341 mm.

The variability in climate and topography within this area supports an extraordinary diversity of vegetation types. These include low elevation evergreen forests (Dipterocarpus indicus-Dipterocarpus bourdilloni-Strombosia ceylanica type), medium elevation evergreen forests (Cullenia exarillata-Mesua ferrea-Palaquium ellipticum-Gluta travancorica type) also with Nageia wallichiana facies, Ochlandra reed ecosystems, Myristica swamp forests, and secondary moist deciduous forests (Lagerstroemia microcarpa-Tectona grandis-Dillenia pentagyna type) (Ramesh et al. 1997). At least 1,106 species of flowering plants have been reported from the Neyyar and Peppara Wildlife Sanctuaries of which 26% (286 species) are endemic to the Western Ghats and among these 47 species are endemic only to the Agasthyamalai region. Recent surveys resulted in the discovery of 35 new species from this area. 125 species of orchids have been recorded from Neyyar, as well as several rare, threatened and endemic evergreen trees such as Bentinckia condapanna, Semecarpus auriculata, Eugenia floccosa, E. discifera, Canarium strictum, Elaeocarpus tuberculatus and Hopea utilis (MoEF 2006).

Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary is designated as an Important Bird Area, owing to the presence of one globally threatened and endemic bird, the Nilgiri wood-pigeon (Columba elphinstonii), as well as the occurrence of 11 of the 16 Western Ghats endemics. It also has six of the 15 species whose distributions are largely or wholly confined to the Indian Peninsula Tropical Moist Forest biome. At least 174 species have been recorded from this sanctuary (Islam and Rahmani 2004). Interesting species recorded here include-greater grey-headed fish eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus), great pied hornbill (Buceros bicornis), Malabar grey hornbill (Ocyceros griseus), Wynaad laughing-thrush (Garrulax delesserti), Nilgiri flycatcher (Eumyias albicaudata), white-bellied blue flycatcher (Cyornis pallipes), Indian edible-nest swiftlet (Collocalia unicolor), Indian scimitar-babbler (Pomatorhinus horsfieldii) and Loten's sunbird (Nectarinia lotenia) (Islam and Rahmani 2004).

The mammalian faunal assemblage of Neyyar is characteristic of the Agastyamalai region of the southern Western Ghats. Globally threatened endemics such as the lion-tailed macaque (Macaca silenus), Nilgiri marten (Martes gwatkinsi) and slender loris (Loris lydekkerianus) occur here. Wide-ranging globally threatened mammals are also present in this sanctuary including, Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), tiger (Panthera tigris) and wild dog (Cuon alpinus).

The Neyyar reservoir has a healthy population of marsh crocodiles (Crocodylus palustris). Recent cases of conflict with local people has prompted the Forest Department to capture rogue individuals and house them in a crocodile research centre and captive facility located within the sanctuary. The latter now serves as a tourist attraction.

There are some Kani tribal settlements inside the protected area, mainly around the reservoir. Some are fairly remote. Most tribal people practice non-timber forest products (NTFP) collection and some have small plantations of rubber and pepper around their settlements. The landscape outside the protected area to the west is densely settled and dominated by rubber plantations. There is a fair amount of pressure exerted on these forests due to grazing, fuelwood collection and NTFP collection. However, a greater threat to natural habitats is posed by the large seasonal influx of pilgrims to Agastyar peak. Another threat associated with the pilgrimage is forest fires.


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.)

MoEF. 2006. India's Tentative List of Natural Heritage Properties to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. UNESCO, Paris, France.

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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