Periyar Tiger Reserve is the best potential location for long-term tiger conservation

In order to meet the growing challenges of conserving and protecting the 925 sq km Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR), the State government has issued an order to further strengthen the protection force of the reserve, one of the best potential locations for long-term tiger conservation. The government order following a formal request from Chief Wildlife Warden V. Gopinathan says that four new forest stations and 88 new posts are being created for the purpose, “because, at present, the protection force for such a big wildlife reserve and biodiversity hot spot comprises only 194 personnel.”

This is in spite of the fact that the Sabarimala temple and the Mangala Vanam Devi temple where thousands of pilgrims visit every year are situated within the PTR, the order highlights. The PTR which lies in contiguity with forests of Kerala and Tamil Nadu is also a rich habitat for 869 species of flora and 86 species of fauna endemic to the Western Ghats.

Three of the new forest stations will come up inside the Pampa range under the west division of the PTR and one in the Vallakadavu range under the east division. The stations sanctioned for the Pampa range will be known as the Sannidhanam, Mukkuzhi, and Pachakanam forest stations. The one sanctioned under the Vallakadavu range will be at Gavi.

Personnel attached to the Sannidhanam station will be responsible for the protection of Sabarimala pilgrims entering the PTR from Triveni to Pampa and from Ranni to Uppupara. Personnel at the Mukkuzhi station man the 22-km pilgrimage route through the PTR from Azhutha to Pampa. Ponnambalamedu and the route from Vallakadavu to Uppupara, mostly used by Sabarimala pilgrims from Tamil Nadu, will come under the Pachakanam station. The personnel of the Gavi station will concentrate on the Angamuzhi-Uppupara route and the entire Gavi sector.

The 88 new posts sanctioned comprise four deputy range forest officers, 16 section forest officers, 64 beat forest officers, four drivers, and four jeeps. Each station will have one deputy range forest officer, four section forest officers, 16 beat forest officers, and one driver.

The PTR is spread out in the districts of Idukki, Kottayam, and Pathanamthitta. The core zone is a critical tiger habitat and forms the primary watershed of the Periyar river. This area is free of all disturbances, intended for total preservation and no human activities are permitted within its boundaries.

The buffer zone covers an area of 44 sq km, lying outside the core zone. This area comprises the tourism zone; part of the Periyar lake; areas of Sabarimala pilgrimage, including the traditional trekking path and forest routes; all leased areas and establishments of the Kerala Forest Department; and areas of human settlements, including tribal settlements.

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