Manjampatti Valley, Tirupur
Manjampatti Valley is a 110.9 km2 (42.8 sq. mi) protected area in the eastern end of Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park (IGWS&NP) in Tirupur District, Tamilnadu, South India. It is a pristine drainage basin of shola and montane rain forest with high biodiversity recently threatened by illegal land clearing and cultivation.
Manjampatti Valley is the eastern core zone of the Indira Gandhi National Park (IGWS&NP). It is managed as an Ib-Wilderness Area. It is a large area of unmodified or slightly modified land, retaining its natural character and influence, without permanent or significant habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural condition.
The Tamil Nadu Forest Department has divided the valley into 3 administrative areas: Thalinji beat 4290 ha, Manjampatti beat 3741.75 ha and Keelanavayal beat 3058.75 ha. Total = 11,090.5 ha = 110.905 km2 (42.821 sq. mi).
To the east, it adjoins the western ends of the Kodaikanal and Dindigul Forest Districts. These Forests will make up part of the new Kodaikanal Wildlife Sanctuary and the proposed Palani Hills National Park. To the south and west it adjoins Munnar forest Division and Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Idukki District, Kerala. To the north it adjoins the north slope of the Amaravathy River basin in the 172.5050 km2 (66.6046 sq. mi) Amaravathy Range of IGWS&NP.
Some areas of the drainage basin are not included within the political boundaries of the national park, including the Kodaikanal Taluk villages of Kumbur, Mannavanur and Kilanavayal; Upper Palani Reserve Forest (Kilanavayal) and a 2 km wide strip of the east end of Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary.
The IGWS&NP and the Kodaikanal and Dindigul Forest Districts are designated the Anaimalai Conservation Area, a two-year collaborative project of the Wildlife Institute of India and the U.S.D.A. Forest Service. Manjampatti Valley is under the protection of the Coimbatore Forest Office; Wildlife Warden-Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary. A license is required for entry.
Manjampatti derived its name from two Tamil words, manjal meaning yellow and Patti meaning "cattle fold" or small village; there is a local opinion that it was so named because of endemic wild mango trees here.
Iron Age (1200-200 BC) Dolmens, consisting of a stone floor slab 3 to 5 feet long, 3 stone walls about 2 feet high, and a “roof” stone slab, found on at least 2 stony hilltops on the edges of the valley and the existence of unexpectedly large temple ruins in the isolated village of Thalinji, and the later (1559 - 1736) assignment of land by Madurai Nayak Dynasty kings to cultivators in the upper Palanis, indicate that there has been continuous interaction from prehistoric times to the present between plains people and the ethnic groups in these hills.
Some groups relying on hunting and gathering partially retained their pre-civilizational lifestyle up to the last century. The earliest known residents of the area are the Palaiyar (meaning "old ones", incorrectly translated as Paliyan), a Tamil-speaking tribal people, who have been seen in the past 35 years living in small caves in the valley. Historically close extended Palaiyar family groups foraged and hunted at least 128 forest species for subsistence.
In the past century they increasingly depended on shifting cultivation and collection and trading of non-timber forest products of over 60 species for: food (14), incense & toiletries (11) medicines (13), construction materials & precious woods (9) and miscellaneous (13) honey, tubers, fruits, herbs, flowers, bark, seeds, fibers, gum, leaves, logs and oils.
Since establishment of the IGWS&NP in 1976, Palaiyar trading was gradually but severely restricted. They are now allowed to collect only tamarind from one small area outside Manjampatti Valley. Their strong cultural ties to the area and traditional avoidance of outsiders keep them attached to their forest habitat. They must now depend on intermittent plantation labor, primitive low yield cultivation in restricted areas, liaisons with forest product smugglers and poachers, government programs and charity.
In 2002 there were 401 tribal persons living in three settlements within IGWS&NP boundaries in the valley. This is an average population density of 3.65 persons/km2, 40% higher than the 2.6 persons/km2 living in all 36 tribal settlements in the entire 1769 km2 IGWS&NP. Their peaceful ancient culture in this area is increasingly fragmented as they assimilate modern Tamil customs and values. The villages have no link roads, no electricity (some solar lamps have been installed recently), no running water, no government school, no medical facilities and no shops.
In addition there are three villages within the valley watershed but outside the National Park boundaries: Mannavanur (pop. 5,927), Kumbur (pop. 500) and Kilanavayal (124 families).
Villages around the Valley
This Valley forms the southeast part of Anaimalai Reserve Forest, in Udumalaipettai Block, Coimbatore District, about 13 km south of Amaravathi Reservoir and Dam on SH 17 and 30 km West of Kodaikanal at the western border of Dindigul District in the Palani Hills of the Western Ghats mountain range. Elevation ranges from
- 2,327 metres (7,635 ft.) at Vellari Malai peak towering over the valley
- 1,725 metres (5,659 ft.) at Kumbur village on eastern ridge (outside IGWSNP)
- 675 metres (2,215 ft.) at Alanthoni Falls, 20 metres (66 ft.) tall, on Ten Ar River west of Manjampatti Village
- 1,640 metres (5,380 ft.) at Mannavanur village sitting to the south east on a small plateau overlooking the valley (outside IGWSNP)
- 473 metres (1,552 ft.) lowest point in the valley at the Amaravathi River
The valley is surrounded by a ridgeline connecting several prominent peaks listed in order clockwise from the northwest corner.
Starting at the Amaravathy River the ridge climbs to
· Tavatti Malai 943 metres (3,094 ft.)
· Unnamed 1,700 metres (5,600 ft.)
· Chinna Mudi Malai 1,836 metres (6,024 ft.)
· Mudian Malai 1,836 metres (6,024 ft.)
· Unnamed 1,793 metres (5,883 ft.)
· Pappalamman Malai 2,201 metres (7,221 ft.)
· Vellari Malai 2,219 metres (7,280 ft.)
· Unnamed at Kilanavayal 2,350 metres (7,710 ft.)
· Paratumba 2,260 metres (7,410 ft.)
· Kalabhaathur Malai 2,066 metres (6,778 ft.)
· Kadavaari 2,112 metres (6,929 ft.)
· Vellingiri Malai 1,769 metres (5,804 ft.)
· Jambu Malai 1,395 metres (4,577 ft.)
· Palappatti 1,357 metres (4,452 ft.)
From here the ridge drops to the Amaravathi River. The western ridge of Manjampatti Valley extends 2 km into the easternmost area of Idukki District, Kerala and adjoins the 90 km2 Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Manjampatti Valley catchment basin drains into the Chinnar River from the Athioda Stream and to the Amaravathi River from the Kajadaikatti Odai Ar and Ten Ar Rivers 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) to the east. Athioda is the north to south political and physical boundary for 1.584 miles (2.549 km) between Tamil Nadu and Kerala between the end of the Pambar River and the top of Jambumalai peak at the trijunction of Coimbatore and Dindugul Districts and Kerala State. (This peak is locally known as Chinna Chambu Malai).
The top of the ridge to the west above Athioda is the western limit of the catchment. Thus, the western edge of Manjampatti valley extends up to 2 km into Kerala. Athioda stream joins the Pambar River at the point they both join the Chinnar River at the North West corner of the Valley. West of this point, the Chinnar River forms the boundary between the Indira Gandhi National Park in Tamilnadu and the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala. East of this point, the Chinnar River becomes the Amaravathi River in Tamil Nadu.
The Ten Ar River is fed from most of the valley by the Kumbar stream, the Manalaar River ("Sand River"), the Kalyanivalasu Odai and other smaller tributaries from the higher forests and sholas to the east. At the northwest end of the valley, the Ten Ar is joined by the Varavandi Odai stream flowing from a smaller adjacent valley to the east and soon joins the Amaravathi River .8 km (0.50 mi) downstream to the west. The Amaravathi River then flows north to the Amaravathi Reservoir and Dam and then to the Cauvery River.
The Kudiraiyar River basin, including Kukkal village, is just over the northeast ridge of the valley behind Vellari Malai.
Manjampatti Valley currently supports stable breeding populations of several large mammal species including apex predators critical to healthy populations of smaller animals.
In colonial times Indian tigers (Tamil: Puli) were common in this area and as recently as the 1950s the Raja of Pudukkottai would go out from his house in Kodaikanal and hunt them. At least one tiger has been shot here within the past fifty five years. Two tigers, a male and a female, were sighted and recorded in the 2007 wildlife census. Tiger populations in the adjoining areas of IGWS&NP and the nearby Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve could expand back into this area if they and their prey species were better protected.
The census estimated 10 to 20 panthers (Tamil: sirutthai) living in the Manjampatti Valley. Wild Indian elephants roam over the whole valley. Sloth bears (Tamil: karadi) are sighted every year in the upper forests of Manjampatti valley. Nilgiri tahr (Tamil: Varaiyadu) live especially on the spectacular high rocky peaks around the valley, as Mudimalai, Jambumalai, and Attumalai, though they may also be seen in the valley forests.
There are several herds of gaur (popularly called bison) (Tamil: Kaattu erumai, "forest buffalo") in the valley. Earlier the area was well known for Manjampatti white bison. This possible sub-species has recently been seen and photographed here by Forest Department staff.
Wild boar (Tamil: Kaattu panri) live all over the Palani Hills and in Manjampatti Valley, where one can frequently see holes in the ground where they have dug for edible roots. The valley has the large mountain squirrel (Tamil: malai-anil) and the ash-colored squirrel (Tamil: saambalnira anil).
There are wild peacocks, jungle fowl, and many other bird species enumerated in the Wildlife Census. There are no known studies of the many reptiles, amphibians, insects, invertebrates or plants living in the valley.
Manjampatti White Bison
Manjampatti White Bison are a type of Gaur, kaatteni, or kaattu erumai meaning “forest buffalo”) occasionally seen in the Manjampatti Valley, a 110.9 km2 (42.8 sq. mi) protected area at the eastern end of Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park in Coimbatore District, Tamilnadu, South India.
Gaur were previously numerous all over the Palani Hills, but declined greatly during the 20th century. Now they are protected and their numbers are increasing substantially. The endangered Gaur is the heaviest and most powerful of all wild cattle. Males have a highly muscular body, with a distinctive dorsal ridge, forming a very powerful appearance. Females are substantially smaller, and their dorsal ridge is less developed.
Adult body Length is 2.5 meters (8 ft.) to 3.6 meters (12 ft.) cm / 8.3-12 ft. Shoulder height is 170 centimeters (66.9 in) to 220 centimeters (86.6 in). Average males stand about 180 centimeters (70.9 in) to 190 centimeters (74.8 in) at the shoulder. Females are about 20 centimeters (7.9 in) less. Tail length is 70 centimeters (27.6 in) to 100 centimeters (39.4 in).
There are several herds of Gaur (popularly called bison) in Manjampatti Valley. Earlier the area was well known for Manjampatti White Bison. The Manjampatti valley of Udumalpet range alone is said to harbour White Bison, a very rare animal.
In 1972, Rev. Sam Schmitthenner observed two white gaur in Manjampatti Valley. In 1970, E. R. C. Davidar, a famous wildlife researcher, spent several months on behalf of the Bombay Natural History Society in Chinnar trying to spot and photograph this animal. His mission, undertaken to provide scientific evidence to the rumors floating in the air for several decades, did not find success.
His report to the BNHS, White Bison of Manjampatti said that the white gaur reported by Williams might have become extinct following the outbreak of an epizootic disease that wiped out several herds from the region in those days. But, tribals living in the forests continued to claim that white gaurs were still there in Chinnar.
In 1998, the then Wildlife Warden of Eravikulam, Mohan Alambath, his Range Officer, V. K. Franzis, and a wildlife enthusiast, V. P. Ajithkumar, claimed sighting this animal in Chinnar. Though they reported the matter in the journal of BNHS the photograph they had taken of the animal lacked clarity.
In 2004, the famous and extremely rare white bison was reported at Chinnar. An unusual white gaur, moving with a herd of dark-skinned gaurs, was spotted in the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Idukki district and photographed by the wildlife photographer, N. A. Nazeer.
In 2006, this possible sub-species was seen and photographed in Manjampatti Valley by Forest Department staff. In 2007, a rare Manjampatti White Bison was seen in a herd of about eight or ten normal coloured Bison grazing and resting on mountain downs above Kukkal at the northeast corner of Manjampatti Valley.
An 2007 encounter with a White Bison has happened at the jungle lodge near the Chinnar check post.
Manjampatti valley is a core zone of the Indira Gandhi National Park. Tourism, hiking, camping and non-resident visitation of the villages is prohibited. A permit is required for serious researchers to work inside the valley.
There is a well laid-out park nearby at the Amaravathi Dam where one may climb steep steps on the dam to have a picturesque view north of the plains below and south to the Anaimalai Hills, Manjampatti Valley and Palani Hills above. This place is being developed as a District Excursion Centre for tourism. The park and adjacent crocodile farm are open every day from 9.00 A.M. to 6.00 P.M. Entry fees are 0.50 paise per adult and 0.25 paise per child (below 12 years).
Travel by road From Coimbatore – via Pollachi and Udumalpet to Amaravathinagar is 96 km (60 mi).
Accommodation is available for four persons, with advance reservation, at a forest rest house near the crocodile farm. Rent is Rs.150 per day for two persons per suite.
The Sarakupatti Watchtower is a small bare concrete room on an 8 m tower where one can go and wait to see animals. It has a fine view of the whole valley. It is located 1/2 km east of SH-17, 1/2 km north of Chinnar River checkpoint. It is available for overnight lodging. Advance booking is required.
Forest Range Officer, Amaravathy Range, Amaravathy nagar, Ph. No. 94434 96413
Wildlife Warden, Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park, 365/1 Meenkarai Road, Pollachi-1, Ph. No. 04259 225356, Email: IGWLSNPPOY@rediffmail.com