The Odisha government has declared the Gupteswar forest in Koraput district as its fourth Biodiversity Heritage Site (BHS).
The forest is adjacent to the Gupteswar Shiva temple in the Dhondrakhol reserve forest under the Jeypore forest division.
Earlier, the State government had declared Mandasaru in Kandhamal district, Mahendragiri in Gajpati, and Gandhamardan in Bargarh and Bolangir districts as Biodiversity Heritage Sites.
The Gupteswar forest site spread over 350 hectares of area is having sacred grooves traditionally worshiped by the local community and bestowed with a wide range of flora and fauna.
As per the biodiversity inventory and survey conducted by the Odisha Biodiversity Board, the site has 608 faunal species including 28 species of mammals, 188 species of birds, 18 species of amphibia, 48 species of reptiles, 45 species of pisces, 141 species of butterflies, 43 species of moths, 30 species of spiders, six species of scorpion, and 20 species of lower invertebrates.
“Significant faunal species such as mugger, kanger valley rock gecko, sacred grove bush frog, and avifauna like black baza, Jerdon’s baza, Malabar trogon, common hill myna, white-bellied woodpecker, and banded bay cuckoo have also been documented,” says the government.
The limestone caves of Gupteswar boast of eight species of bats out of the total 16 species found in southern Odisha.
“This site also has a rich floral diversity, including 182 species of trees, 76 species of shrubs, 177 species of herbs, 69 species of climbers, 14 species of orchids and threatened medicinal plants such as Indian trumpet tree, Indian snake root, Cumbi gum tree, garlic pear tree, Chinese fever vine, Rohituka tree, Jodpakli, Indian jointfir, a number of wild crop relatives of ginger and turmeric,” it said.
The State government has asked the Odisha Biodiversity Board to prepare a long-term plan for intensive conservation and development of these sites through direct participation of the local communities. An amount of ₹35 lakh has been provided for preparation of the action plan and awareness building activities in the localities, the government said in a statement.