Kerala

Invasive plants a threat to wildlife

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The wild growth of invasive alien plants such as Senna spectabilis (calceolaria shower), Lantana, Eupatorium and Parthenium is posing a threat to wildlife and indigenous plants in the forest areas of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, including the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS), a major habitat of Asiatic elephants in the country.

“The spread of Senna spectablis is more dangerous than other exotic species owing to its quick growth,” Narendranath Veluri, North Wayanad Forest Divisional officer told The Hindu.

“Nearly 3,000 sq km-stretch of the region, including the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, North and South Wayanad forest divisions and the adjacent Muthumalai, Bandipur and Nagarhole tiger reserves, have wild growth of the invasive plant,” he said.

Survey

An ongoing survey being conducted by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), in association with the Forest Department, shows that the plant is widely distributed in the Muthanga and Tholpetty range of forests under the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.

“An adult tree would grow up to 15 to 20 metres in a short period of time and its quick spread causes dearth of food for the wildlife population, especially herbivores, This would worsen the man-animal conflict in the district,” said N. Badusha, president, Wayanad Prakruthi Samrakshana Samiti.

C.K. Vishnudas, a wildlife researcher, said no part of the tree had proved to be edible to wildlife.

It would not allow the growth of other indigenous species of trees or even grass under its thick canopy.

“It is suspected that the spread of the exotic species in the region began with a social forestry programme of the department in the Nineties. Eradication of the plant would not be easy, but it can be done with the active participation of environmental organisations, National Service Scheme volunteers and the public,” Mr. Badusha said.

Roy P Thomas, Wildlife Warden, WWS, said the Forest Department was preparing to execute a project with the technical support of the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi , and the WTI to eradicate the plant from the sanctuary.

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Printable version | May 20, 2019 4:02:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/invasive-plants-a-threat-to-wildlife/article6432731.ece

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