New sanctuary in Kodaikanal will cover seven forest ranges, bringing more areas under protection

The State government has notified the formation of a new wildlife sanctuary in Kodaikanal. It will be the State’s 12 sanctuary.

A government order on September 20 said it had accepted the proposal of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden for declaration of Kodaikanal Wildlife Sanctuary under Section 26 A1(b) of Wildlife (Protection) Act , 1972.

The other sanctuaries are Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary (The Nilgiris) Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary (Pollachi), Mundanthurai Sanctuary (Tirunelveli), Kalakkad Sanctuary (Tirunelveli), Srivilliputhur Grizzled Giant Squirrel Sanctuary (Srivilliputhur), Point Calimere Sanctuary (Vedaranyam), Vallanadu Blackbuck Sanctuary (Tirunelveli), Kanyakumari Wildlife Sanctuary, Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary, Megamalai Wildlife Sanctuary (Theni) and Point Calimere Block A and B Sanctuary.

The new sanctuary would be formed with forest areas from Dindigul and Theni districts. The total area of the new sanctuary in Kodaikanal would be 60,895.482 hectares, which would be an extent of 608.95 sqkm.

Seven Ranges

At present the Kodaikanal Forest division has seven ranges – Kodaikanal, Perumballam, Devadhanapatti, Poombarai, Berijam, Mannavanur and Vandharavu. Additionally one more range from Palani will be added to the sanctuary, said Forest department sources.

Kudhiraiyar, Oliyanuthu, Poombarai, Vilpatty, Velancombai, Andipatti Reserved forests in Palani Taluk; Gundar Valley, Ampth hill Down, Kookal, Poombarai, Shengalvarayar, Karungalthonimedu, Amburuvi, Kilanavayal, Samikanal Reserved Forests in Kodaikanal taluk; Unjalanchi, Palani Hills Southern Slope East, Mulaiyar, Pambar, Perumal Malai, Arunkanal, Adukkam, Maruthanadiyar, Kaduguthadi and Murugamalai Reserved Forests in both Kodaikanal and Periakulam taluks would be added to form the new sanctuary, the officials said.

Varied types of forests

The Kodaikanal Forest division boasts of all types of forests in its ranges.

This included semi-evergreen forests, south Indian moist deciduous forests, Southern dry mixed deciduous forests, southern Montane wetgrasslands and tropical evergreen forests.

A senior Forest officer said with the government declaring Kodaikanal as a wildlife sanctuary, the protected area would increase. All the Special Acts are applicable to the newly formed sanctuary. Similarly, it will improve the legal status for the Kodaikanal forest division, the officer said.

With the formation of a new sanctuary, the authorities could obtain funds from the Centre directly. Funds from Sanctuary Support Scheme could also be obtained. At present a total of 165 posts including the District Forest Officer, Rangers, Foresters, Guards, Watchers and Anti-Poaching Watchers were working in the Kodaikanal forest division.

Faunal diversity

Elephants, barking deer, Indian Gaur, sambar, common langur, wild dogs, leopard and sloth bear, were some of the wildlife one could see in the Kodaikanal Forest division.

Welcoming the declaration of the new sanctuary, members of the Palani Hills Conservation Council (PHCC) said the Council first sent a proposal in 1994 to the government to declare the area as a sanctuary, which was about 1,046 sqkm. The government had declared only 608 sqkm of forest area as sanctuary.

N. Arun Shankar, PHCC Secretary, said some forests close to coffee plantations (Middle and lower Palani hills) have been left out. Major portions of the sanctuary have been overrun by invasive alien species of plants such as wattle and pine. The lower altitude has good flora and fauna diversity.

“We request the government to reconsider inclusion of the left-out areas and make it as proposed by the council,” he added.