As a component of its Habitat Management Plan, the forest department has uprooted a certain number of Prosopis juliflora at the Kodiakarrai Sanctuary here. The project that was initiated as a part of the forest department’s annual action plan in the first week of September stands completed now.

Prosopis Juliflora (Kaatu Karuvel in Tamil) is an exotic species that is not native to the natural vegetative habitat of Point Calimere. Its quick propagation has been posing the single most threat to the tropical dry evergreen vegetation unique to Point Calimere. The plant propagates even from the droppings of the Feral ponies that feed on them in the Sanctuary.

As part of its Annual Action Plan for 2009, the forest department had proposed uprooting of Prosopis to the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The project was approved with a sanctioned amount of Rs.5.5 lakh. The uprooting has covered 40 ha of the reserve forest area, with about 21,167 stumps of Prosopis removed.

According to the V. Thirunavukarasu, Wild Life Warden and District Forest Officer, the project was completed within a period of one month. The strategy is uprootal of older ones along with continuous removal of pods, said Mr. Thirunavukarasu. “Young ones can be hand removed and this has been entrusted with the protection staff of the sanctuary, as each protection staff covers 5 sq. km area,” he said.

Each stump removal has been marked by GPS readings to keep track of the work done. This would guide de-weeding works of the forthcoming years as well. The project has covered about 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the area.

Kodiakkarai with its tropical dry evergreen forests hosts the largest patch of open grasslands at sea level, says Mr. Thirunavukarasu. These grasslands are best suited for the herbivores that have made Kodiakarrai their home. “Prosopis has been strangulating native species and gradually killing them. There was a point in time when these open grasslands were devoid of weeds. Our aim is to restore the original landscape.”

Besides its ‘flag-ship’ species of Black Bucks, Point Calimere is also home to the Spotted Deer, Feral Pony, Wild Boar, Jackal, mongoose, Bonnet Macaque, Black-naped Hare and Indian star tortoise. It is also the country’s prominent feeding ground for migratory birds that arrive as far as from the Arctic.