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Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
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Established in 1973, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Kerala's Wayanad district between the latitudes of 11°35'15.36"N and 11°58'38.78"N and the longitudes of 76°2'23.96"E and 76°26'42"E. This protected area covers 344.44 sq km. Together with the adjoining protected areas in the states of Karnataka (Bandipur and Nagarahole National Parks) and Tamil Nadu (Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary), it forms part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, a landscape made up of vast expanses of grasslands, scrub, deciduous and evergreen forests (Gadgil 1982) that possibly contains the single largest population of globally endangered 'landscape' species such as the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), gaur (Bos gaurus) and tiger (Panthera tigris) (Sukumar and Santiapillai 1996, Wikramanayake et al. 1998, Venkatraman et al. 2002). Besides charismatic large mammals, the region has also distinguished itself for its diversity and endemism of other life forms as well as for its cultural and ethnic diversity (MoEF 2006).

The altitudinal range within the sanctuary is from 713-1,151 m and the mean annual rainfall for the area is approximately 1,796 mm (SRTM 2003, Krishnaswamy et al in prep). Wayanad receives higher rainfall than the adjacent protected forests of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, as a result, there is an annual migration of large herbivores into the sanctuary during the dry season (Islam and Rahmani 2004).

The main vegetation types found here are-medium elevation semi-evergreen forest, moist deciduous forest (Lagerstroemia microcarpa-Tectona grandis-Dillenia pentagyna type), dry deciduous forest (Anogeisuss latifolia-Tectona grandis-Terminalia tomentosa type) and teak plantations (Pascal et al. 1982). The sanctuary derives its name from the presence of swamps or vayals. These have a dense growth of grasses and bamboo (Bambusa arundinacea). There are extensive plantations and agricultural enclosures within the sanctuary (Islam and Rahmani 2004).

Wayanad has been designated as an Important Bird Area owing to the presence of eight globally threatened species, all 16 of the Western Ghats endemic birds and 14 of the 15 bird species whose distributions are largely or wholly confined to the Indian Peninsula Tropical Moist Forest biome (Islam and Rahmani 2004). There are two 'Critically Endangered' species found here; the Oriental white-backed vulture (Gyps bengalensis) and long-billed vulture (Gyps indicus). Six 'Vulnerable' species (lesser kestrel Falco naumanni, wood snipe Gallinago nemoricola, Nilgiri wood-pigeon Columba elphinstonii, broad-tailed grass warbler Schoenicola platyura, white-bellied shortwing Brachypteryx major and Nilgiri laughing-thrush Garrulax cachinnans) are also listed from this protected area. A total of 275 species have been recorded from this area. There are three species of hornbill found here-the Malabar pied hornbill (Anthracoceros cornatus), great pied hornbill (Buceros bicornis) and Malabar grey hornbill (Ocyceros griseus) (Islam and Rahmani 2004).

The sanctuary is recognised for its large mammal populations. All the wide-ranging globally threatened species such as tiger (Panthera tigris), elephant (Elephas maximus), gaur (Bos gaurus) and wild dog (Cuon alpinus) are found here. Other threatened and endemic mammals present are-the Malabar giant squirrel (Ratufa indica), Nilgiri langur (Trachypithecus johnii) and slender loris (Loris lydekkerianus). A total of 44 species of reptiles are recorded from here of which 12 are considered to be endangered (Islam and Rahmani 2004).

Wayanad is home to various tribal communities, prominent among them are the Paniya, Kurichiya, Kattunayaka and Kurumbar tribes. In recent times there has been a lot of conflict between the tribal people and the Forest Department in this area (PA Update 2004).

There is significant human impact within the sanctuary owing to the presence of agricultural enclosures. The southern ranges have 80 settlements and the Tholpetty range has nine. It is estimated that about 25,000 people live in and around the sanctuary. They have occupied almost all the vayals within the sanctuary that have a perennial water source. There are very high levels of human-wildlife conflict, particularly with elephants that enter fields to raid crops. In addition, people graze their livestock inside the sanctuary and collect fuelwood and non-timber forest produce (Islam and Rahmani 2004). Poaching and illegal harvest and smuggling of cinnamon bark are among the threats that this protected area faces (PA Update 2004).


Gadgil, M. 1982. Conservation of India's living resources through biosphere reserves. Current Science. 51:547-550.

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.

PA Update,2004. CBI told to produce case diary regarding Muthanga incidents. December (52):11-12.

PA Update.2004. Anti-poaching drive triggers tension in Wayanad. December (52):12.

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

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

Sukumar, R. and Santiapillai, C. 1996. Elephas maximus: status and distribution. Pages 327-331 in J. Shoshani and P. Tassy (eds.) The Proboscidea: the evolution and paleoecology of elephants and their relatives. Oxford University Press, New York, USA.

Venkatraman, A.B., Venkatesa, K.N., Varma, S. and Sukumar, R. 2002. Conservation of a flagship species: prioritising Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) conservation units in southern India. Current Science. 82: 1023-1033.

Wikramanayake, E.D., Dinerstein, E., Robinson, J.G., Karanth, U., Rabinowitz, A., Olson, D., Mathew, T., Hedao, P., Conner, M., Hemley, G. and Bolze, D. 1998. An ecology-based method for defining priorities for large mammal conservation: the tiger as case study. Conservation Biology .12:865-878.

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