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Bonnet Macaque tops in wildlife survey in Kanyakumari district

Staff Reporter

Joint initiative by Forest department staff and students of various colleges

Nagercoil: The Department of Forest, students and staff of various colleges in and around Nagercoil conducted a wildlife census in Kanyakumari district recently.

A total of 224 observations were recorded during the census from 20 transects, representing 10 major habitat types and five forest ranges.

Of this, 110 (45.8 per cent) were direct sightings and the remaining 114 were recorded based on direct evidences, said the District Forest Officer, I. Anwardeen.

He said that from the direct as well as from the indirect evidences, a total of 495 individuals representing 25 species of mammals and three important reptile species were recorded.

Among the species recorded, a maximum number of individuals (89) were of Bonnet Macaque followed by Sambar Deer, Nilgiri Langur, Nilgiri Tahr, and Elephants in terms of number of sightings and number of individuals.

The King Cobra, Monitor Lizard and the Travancore Tortoise were the three important species (reptiles) recorded during the survey.

The Kanyakumari Forest Division consisted five ranges viz. Boothapandi, Azhakiyapandipuram, Velimalai, Kulasekaram and Kaliyal.

The Forest range-wise analysis revealed that Boothapandi range has the maximum number of sightings (33 per cent) followed by Azhakiyapandipuram, (26 per cent) and Kulasekaram range (24 per cent). The Boothapandi range comprised the southern most slopes and intermittent hillocks of the forest division with vegetation pattern of scrub jungle and mixed deciduous forests on the lower eastern slopes and towards the higher reaches it has a mosaic of habitats like the tropical hilltop-evergreen, shola-grass lands.

As this place was undisturbed scrub jungle owing to the presence of Indian Space Research Organization (Mahendragiri unit), it continued to provide a suitable habitat and safe haven to large number of herbivores particularly to sambar deer. With the constant availability of prey species, it also continued to attract the predators like leopards, dholes, hyena and other lesser cats.

Another reason for the maximum recording of animals in these parts was due to the visibility in the scrub habitat.

He further said that Azhakiyapandipuram range with 131 animals (26 percent) was adjoining to Boothapandi range and was comprised of the further northern as well as north-western hills and slopes.

Some of the best evergreen patches and grasslands were also located in this range. Many streams also originated from the ridges, which ensured the availability of water through out the year. A maximum number of species (71 per cent) was found in these forest areas.

Whereas, the Kulasekaram range has steep rocky grassland slopes leading to the upper Kodayar falls.

The Vangamotti and Golden Rock areas of this range have good habitat of Nilgiri Thar. Indirect evidence of tiger was also recorded from this area.

Further Kaliyal range consisted of diverse habitats, which were adjoining to Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary of Kerala.

Rare and endangered species also found

Rare and endangered species like Lion-tailed Macaque and Nilgiri Tahr habitats were also found in this stretch.

Movement of elephant herds and deer species in the moist deciduous habitat was also recorded from this area.

Being the southern most forest tracts of the Western Ghats, Kanyakumari Forest Division has its significance in possessing peculiar types of habitat and vegetation pattern resulting from its geographical location, physical structure and varying altitudes.

From the survey it ha has been noticed this forest division has about ten are mammals, which were categorized as schedule I under the Wildlife Protection Act, said Mr. Anwardeen.

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