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Flora and Fauna in Ooty, The Nilgiris

Flora and Fauna in Ooty, The Nilgiris

Ooty Flora and Fauna: You can keep on saying endlessly about Ooty flora and fauna. Why? Because you are in one of the most bio diverse regions in the world. Ooty is an integral part of the Western Ghats. You find species of animals, birds, reptiles and plants that you don't find anywhere else in the world. To describe all of them would be folly and it wouldn't be anywhere to close to watching them with your own eyes. If you are a true nature lover and like to appreciate a place for its natural beauty then monsoon is the time for you to visit Ooty.

The mountains wake up from their slumber after summer and the whole forest is filled with wild activity. The mountain slopes are carpeted by a wide variety of wild flowers having colors beyond your wildest imagination. The fabled "Neela kurunji" which blossoms once in 12 years are exclusive to the Ghats. Ooty and Munnar in Kerala are the two places famous for this flower. You are sure to find an unprecedented rush of tourists if you are visiting Ooty at the year of blossom. Another main attraction in Ooty is the pine forests. One look at the forests and you get the feeling that someone might have deliberately planted those trees there many years ago.

To all appearance they seem to be a company of soldiers ready for marching orders. A sense of mystery creeps into these forests during the monsoon and winter time when the fog slowly sets in. The lower parts of the mountains are populated with dense tropical trees and this is where you find a wide variety of animals and reptiles. Ranging from the sleepy Indian rock python to the majestic King cobra you also find a large variety of snake. It is said that a python can easily devour a small deer. Who knows, if you are a trekking enthusiast you might actually come across one.

Among the mammals the elusive panther is the most exotic you find here. The forests are rumored to harbor the big cat, tiger, towards the Karnataka side of the forest. Apart from these, you find a large variety of birds and insects. Recently there have been reports of spotting the very rare, if not extinct flying squirrel in these parts of the Ghats. Some parts of the Ghats near Ooty form a critical section of one of the elephant corridors in South India. These parts are deemed protected and are out of bounds for visitors unless accompanied by forest officials.

The forests contain a lot of herbs of medicinal and scientific research value which is proved by a large number of pharmaceutical plants and botanical research facilities being set up in Ooty. The mysteries of nature are never fully understood by man. You should respect if not fear what you don't fully understand. There is no escape once nature unleashes its fury in the form of landslides and thunderstorms in this part of the region. The people of Ooty know of these only too well and they do all within their power to protect the nature and maintain the delicate balance.

 

The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR), the first one for India and among the 18 biosphere reserves of India, is located in the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot and more recently a UNESCO natural heritage site. The NBR is a region of rich biodiversity and cultural diversity; home to many endemic flora and fauna which co- exist with more than 20 distinct indigenous communities. Today more than 3000sq.ks of the ~5000sq km reserve is under protected area status viz. wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and tiger reserves. Large contiguous tracts of forests also fall under the reserved forest category; in these reserved forests indigenous people have their homes and use many wild resources for their livelihoods.

The NBR lies between 10° 45’N to 12° N and 76° E to 77° 15’ E spread across the three southern states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Altitude varies from 250m to 2650m, and at least four of the major rivers of south India originate in this region – the Bhavani, Moyar, Kabini and Chaliyar rivers. The intensity of the rainfall brought by the southwest and northeast monsoon winds differ across topographic and altitudinal gradients . The western ranges of the NBR receive higher precipitation (up to 4600 mm) while the eastern parts form a rain shadow, receiving less than 800 mm rainfall annually.

This range of topography and climate has resulted in sharp gradients of vegetation composition, ranging from thorny scrub forest dominating the north-eastern region and intergrading westwards into dry and moist deciduous forests and wet evergreen forests towards the western parts. Most of the major vegetation types of peninsular India occur in the NBR.

Both the Western Ghats and the NBR are home to endemic and endangered fauna like the Lion Tailed Macaque, Bengal Tiger, King Cobra, Indian Elephant, Great Indian Pied Hornbills. The Western Ghats harbors approximately 5,000 species of vascular plants belonging to nearly 2,200 genera; about 1,700 species (34 percent) are endemic (westernghats.org.in) like Cycas circinalis. Strobilanthes kunthiana, etc.

Of the estimated 20000 indigenous people of the NBR atleast 5 communities number less than 5000 and of the cholanaiken there are less than 250 surviving members.The Kurumbas, Cholanaikens and Kattunayakas are hunter gatherer communities, famous for their honey hunting skills while the Soliga and Irula practice shifting cultivation besides collecting non timber forest produce (NTFP). Pastoral communities like the Toda graze their buffaloes in the grasslands of the upper plateau.

The biological diversity of the reserve is matched with it’s cultural diversity. There are a number of pressures on the reserve which threaten it’s diversity and richness. Increased proliferation of invasive alien species, lack of scientific assessments of lesser known species, unchecked tourism, unsustainable and unplanned infrastructural development, inadequate management of water resources are some of the serious threats that the region is faced with.

 
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