CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu government on Thursday notified 80,567 hectares (801 sq km) of reserve forest area in Erode district as "Thanthai Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary." With this, the state now has a total of 18 wildlife sanctuaries.
The new sanctuary will boost tiger conservation in the state, which is already home to a healthy population of 306 tigers as per the latest census. The vast landscape of Bargur Hills is interconnected with the Kollegal forests of Karnataka and the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu, creating one of the most diverse habitats in the region.
"It is a critical area that needs to be conserved. This region is part of the corridor that connects Sathyamangalam tiger reserve to MM Hills tiger reserve, and Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary playing a crucial role in maintaining a viable tiger population," said Supriya Sahu, Additional Chief Secretary, Environment, Forests, and Climate Change Department, in the G.O. issued on Thursday.
This landscape is also one of the tiger corridors identified by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and holds a number of tigers. "It facilitates unhindered genetic exchange between geographically isolated populations of tigers, thereby maintaining a healthy population and genetic diversity."
Besides, this region is part of the Nilgiris Elephant Reserve, a catchment of the Palar River that drains into the Cauvery River and is a crucial source of water for agricultural activities. It is also a natural sandal-bearing belt and an active sandal-regenerating area, the forest officials say.
The proposal to declare these reserve forests as wildlife sanctuary is a significant move that would allow for the creation of a contiguous network of protected areas, thereby providing uniform legal status and protection to the landscape, the G.O. reads.