Tamil Nadu

Activists pitch for wildlife sanctuary status for Pakkamalai- Gangavaram hills region

A bamboo pit viper which was spotted at Pakkamalai Reserve Forest near Gingee in Villupuram district.

A bamboo pit viper which was spotted at Pakkamalai Reserve Forest near Gingee in Villupuram district. | Photo Credit: S. Vimalraj/IBF

Conservationists in Villupuram district and many from neighbouring Puducherry, have sought better protection for the Pakkamalai and Gangavaram hills, a biodiversity-rich area near Gingee in the district, and reiterated the demand to declare the area encompassing over 7,000 hectares into a wildlife sanctuary.

“Pakkamalai and Gangavaram should be notified as a wildlife sanctuary not because it has large mammals including leopards and sloth bears but because of its strategic location. It is an ecologically important area in the eastern ghats. Declarating it as a wildlife sanctuary will certainly help protect the endangered flora and fauna in the long run apart from initiating conservation activities,” said S. Vimalraj, a naturalist of Puducherry-based Indigenous Biodiversity Foundation (IBF).

The spider belonging to the genus Poecilotheria Metallica commonly known as the Peacock Parachute Spider or Gooty Tarantula was sighted by a team of researchers of Puducherry based Indigenous Biodiversity Foundation (IBF) in the Pakkamalai Reserve Forests.

The spider belonging to the genus Poecilotheria Metallica commonly known as the Peacock Parachute Spider or Gooty Tarantula was sighted by a team of researchers of Puducherry based Indigenous Biodiversity Foundation (IBF) in the Pakkamalai Reserve Forests. | Photo Credit: P. ARAVIND AATHI

The demand for notifying Gingee hills a wildlife sanctuary was first mooted in 2019. The area was first notified as a Reserve Forest in 1897 and since then it has given protection to the flora and fauna found here.

Pakkamalai and Gangavaram have a rich wealth of biodiversity and are a geographically important area in the eastern ghats. The forests have a good population of grizzled giant squirrel, grey langur, Pangolin, and the critically endangered golden gecko listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

The grizzled giant squirrel was first discovered from Pakkamalai in 2019 by a team led by Mr. Vimalraj and K. Raman, founder of IBF. About 300 nests were identified by them.

“Rich assemblage of tropical birds including cave nests of yellow-throated bulbul, Nagarjuna Sagar racer snake, Leschenaus snake eye lizard, and Gooty tarantula have also been recorded here. More than 3,000 individuals of amphibians and reptiles from 15 families and 56 species have been recorded from Gingee hills,” according to an official in the Forest Department.

“There have also been recorded findings of Bamboo pit viper and Gunthers toad, one of the most poorly known endemic toad, apart from rare sightings of large carnivores like leopards and sloth bears and different species of cave bats. About 21 endemic plant species like the Adhatodasengiana and Drypetes porteri have also been recorded in the hills,” he added.

Mr. Vimalraj said that ‘malai poovarasu’ ( Hildegardiapopulifolia), which was believed to be extinct, was rediscovered in the region a few years ago. The forests in Pakkamalai were unique with rocky terrain and houses several rare varieties of flora from tropical dry evergreen forests and dry deciduous forests.

According to N. Balachandran, Botanist, French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP), “The Pakkamalai Reserve Forests are home to several endangered and distinctly endemic species such as ‘saaniveeran’ ( Dryptes porteri) that are found in the western ghats in Tirunelveli district. Several new species endemic to Sri Lanka have also been found here apart from five International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red-listed species.”

“The declaration of the hills as a wildlife sanctuary would ensure the protection of both native and endemic species besides maintaining a healthy biodiversity reserve. It would also ensure the protection of the living gene bank of endemic and endangered taxa,” he said.

“Both Pakkamalai and Gangavaram have been well protected by the Forest Department from biotic pressures like encroachments, illegal tree felling, and poaching. The Department has also taken up in-situ conservation of rare threatened endemic flora like malai poovarasu found here”, District Forest Officer Sumesh Soman told  The Hindu.

“The Department is finetuning its earlier proposal submitted for notification of Pakkamalai and Gangavaram as a sanctuary. We are working on the queries and details sought on the existing proposal with more technical details and field data.”

The Department had also planned awareness activities and started working on the removal of old plastic garbage dumped by pilgrims going through Pakkamalai Reserve Forest to temples inside the forest. Registration desks were opened for pilgrims wherein the entry of plastic inside the forest area was being restricted, Mr. Soman said. 


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Printable version | Jul 2, 2022 11:05:07 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/activists-pitch-for-wildlife-sanctuary-status-for-pakkamalai-gangavaram-hills-region/article65403474.ece