Kurinjimala’s conservation is key to ecological equilibrium
Even as speculation looms large over redrawing the boundaries of Kurinjimala, the only sanctuary in the state being declared for the conservation of the flowering shrub Neelakuriji (Strobilanthes kunt
IDUKKI:Even as speculation looms large over redrawing the boundaries of Kurinjimala, the only sanctuary in the state being declared for the conservation of the flowering shrub Neelakuriji (Strobilanthes kunthiana), the conservation of the sanctuary in its original extent assumes paramount importance taking into account its geographical peculiarities.
Experts believe that Kurinjimala is an important hub between five wildlife protected areas, which include national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, and conserving the sanctuary in its original form is crucial for ensuring connectivity among protected areas for the movement of animals. The Kurinjimala sanctuary is situated in the middle of Anamudi National Park in the northwest, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary in the north, Kodaikkanal Wildlife Sanctuary in the east, Anamalai Tiger Reserve in the northeast and Pampadum Shola National Park in the south.
“The protection of contiguous areas is one of the major objectives during the declaration of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, which is to ensure that landscape level conservation is achieved,” said P S Easa, former director of the Kerala Forest Research Institute. “And Kurinjimala is such a contiguous area, even if it had not been declared a sanctuary.”
Easa said that animal movements to Eravikulam National Park from adjacent areas, including Kurisumala, Idalimotta and other places, are common through Kurinjimala.
“The place is important for the survival of meta-populated animals like Nilgir tahr as there should be a corridor for their movements for genetic exchange. This necessitates that the actual area of the sanctuary should be kept intact and we need more areas free from human disturbance,” he said.
A population survey conducted by the Forest and Wildlife Department in February, under the aegis of Easa and team, had found that areas falling under Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, especially Mangappara, Kambakkallu and Njandalamala as well as Idalimotta and Kadavari in Shola National Park, could prove to be a good habitat for the Nilgiri tahr.
“Considering the contiguity of most of the areas in Chinnar and Shola National Parks, these areas could be considered as a very good potential habitat for the long-term conservation of the Nilgiri tahr,” the survey said.
According to a former senior official of the Forest Department, high-altitude places are important for a number of endangered species such as the Nilgiri tahr, Nilgiri Pipet and Black and Orange Flycatchers.
“Usually, a majority of species take an altitudinal migration during summer days. However, species living in high-altitude areas like Nilgiri tahr, Nilgiri Pipet and others have no place to go and hence they take a horizontal journey,” he said. “Since our forest lands in the Western Ghats are highly fragmented, ensuring connectivity between them is very important.”
According to experts, ensuring the proper functioning of the ecological process is also an important factor.“Kurinjimala sanctuary is not for Neelakurinji alone. It also provides ecosystem services, which are essential for the people, for the conservation of water, soil and releasing oxygen. Above all, a proper ecosystem is important in mitigating the problem of climate change,” Easa said.
Management objectives for Kurinjimala
To conserve the biological diversity with special emphasis on Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana) and other rare, endangered, threatened and endemic species in the unique high-altitude grassland ecosystem
To maintain the connectivity for movement of animals, especially the long-ranging species such as elephants
To restore and maintain the grassland ecosystem and its associated species
To maintain and improve the watersheds