Monday, September 21, 2015

Srivilliputtur Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary

Srivilliputtur Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary
The Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary (GSWS), also known as Srivilliputtur Wildlife Sanctuary, was established in 1988 to protect the vulnerable grizzled giant squirrel (Ratufa macrora). Occupying an area of 485.2 km2, it is bordered on the southwest by the Periyar Tiger Reserve and is one of the best preserved forests south of the Palghat Gap.
The sanctuary covers 485 square kilometers (187 sq mi) in western Tamil Nadu, South India in the eastern water-shed of the Western Ghats and consists of high hills and valleys, with a number of peaks reaching up to 1,800 metres (5,900 ft).

It is located by the eastern water shed of South India in the Western Ghats. The sanctuary posses a number of high hills, many valleys and also large numbers of peak, with a maximum height of 1,800 meters.
The Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary also known as Srivilliputtur Wildlife Sanctuary is home to the endangered, grizzled giant squirrel Ratufa macrora.
The tributaries of the river Vaipaar and few rivulets draining into the river Gundar River are running through the sanctuary which provides water in the habitat for vegetation and wildlife.
There are two dams viz. Pilavakkal and Koilar situated along the foothills of the sanctuary which are the best places to see water birds and other wildlife. There is one rest house situated inside the sanctuary in Mudaliar Oothu, one of the best places to see the Nilgiri Tahr.
Besides Grizzled Giant Squirrel, the sanctuary is a habitat for endangered species such as tiger, leopard, Nilgiri Tahr and Lion-tailed Macaque. There are no roads, so the sanctuary can only be visited on foot and guides are available on request from the Sanctuary office to accompany tourists on treks.
The climate is generally hot and dry in the foothills. Hot tropical climate prevails in the upper elevations. The average annual rainfall ranges from 800- 2300 mm.

The sanctuary can be visited throughout the year.
The forest officials also take care of all tourists' requirements and provide them with comfortable and affordable accommodation either at the Forest Rest House at Mudungiar, Pudupatti, Mudaliaroothu or at the PWD Rest House at Srivilliputhur and also provides transportation.
The craggy mountains, the dense forests, the exciting wildlife, the opportunities to trek and the escape into the lap of nature, make Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary an attractive destination!
Location & Geography
The sanctuary is located in the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats with a number of peaks reaching up to 1800 m. It is the eastern watershed boundary for the river Periyar and one of the best preserved forests south of the Palghat Gap.
The tributaries of the river Vaipaar and few rivulets draining into the river Gundar are originating in this hill tracts of the Sanctuary. The climate is generally hot and dry in the foothills. Hot tropical climate prevails in the upper elevations. The average annual rainfall ranges from 800- 2300 mm.
The Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary is located between 9° 21' to 9° 48' N and 77°21' to 77°46' E. The sanctuary lies mostly in Virudhunagar district especially in Srivilliputtur and partly in Madurai district. The sanctuary is bounded to the north by the Andipatti hills, south by Tirunelveli District, east by Srivilliputtur and Rajapalayam towns and west by Theni town and Theni District.
It is the eastern boundary for the Periyar river watershed. This sanctuary is contiguous to Periyar Tiger Reserve on the South western side and the Megamalai Reserve Forest on the north western side and Its southern limit is contiguous with the Sivagiri Reserved Forest of Tirunelveli Forest Division.
The elevation ranges from 100 metres (330 ft) in the plains and rises to the highest Peak, Kottaimalai, at 2,010 metres (6,590 ft). Average annual rainfall 849.1 millimeters (33.43 in) varies between 800 millimeters (31 in) - 2,300 millimeters (91 in) in different areas of the sanctuary.
Water sources for the sanctuary are the Kallar and Mullaperiyar Dams and the Periyar, Naragaiar, Pachaiar, Mangar, Kovilar and Pairakudraiar rivers. The underlying rock throughout the area is granitoid gneiss formation. The lowest altitudes have a mixture of quartz and quartzite.
There is a wide range of herbivores, carnivores and omnivores in the Grizzled Squirrel Sanctuary. Resident and migrating elephants are common. The other important animals are Tiger, Leopard, Gaur, Nilgiri tahr, Spotted deer, Barking deer, Sambar, Wild-boar, Porcupine, Nilgiri langur, Lion-tailed macaque, Common langur, Slender lorris, Bonnet macaque, Sloth bear, Indian Giant Squirrel and Flying Squirrel.

The sanctuary is inhabited by extremely rich and diverse fauna. Over 200 species of avifauna have been reported from this sanctuary that includes some rare birds such as the Red faced Malkoha, Nilgiri Flycatcher and Malayan Night Heron. The Great Pied Hornbill is well and widely distributed in the Sanctuary. The main raptors are the Serpent Eagle, Hawks and Black Eagle. The Sanctuary has 18 species of snakes, 15 species of lizards, over 10 species of amphibians and over 56 species of butterflies now.

The Grizzled Squirrel (Ratufa macrora) – flagship species of this sanctuary is highly restricted to south India and Sri Lanka. Ratufa macroura dandolena is distinctive in having the dorsal surface and tail grey or brownish grey more or less grizzled with white. It breeds once a year, producing a single offspring. The distribution of the Grizzled Squirrels is restricted to seven isolated riparian dry deciduous forests in the Sanctuary
Even though, the sanctuary mainly concentrates on the well being of grizzled giant squirrels, many other animals are also protected and cared in this sanctuary, like the common langur, barking deer, flying squirrels, leopard, mouse deer, bonnet macaque, elephants, lion tailed macaques, guar, nilgiri langur, Indian giant squirrel,  nilgiri tahrs, slender lorris, spotted dear, palm civets, sloth bear, wild cats, tree shrew, wild boar, sambhar and spotted dear.

There are many numbers of resident and migrating elephants in the sanctuary and is a common sight. According to the data based on the wildlife census of the year 2002 shows the total number of elephant in the sanctuary as 256. The 2009 census shows that, the number of grizzled squirrels in the sanctuary has increased from the 2008 census. 30 lion tailed macaques were sighted in the sanctuary during its annual census, and in the year 2009 the number hiked to 45, which includes a number of young lion tailed macaques. These lion tailed macaques were spotted between the Nagariyar and Periyankavu. Groups of Nilgiri Tahr had been spotted at different regions of the sanctuary,  like the Kottamalai region in the Rajapalayam town, Perumal Malai and Sathuragiri Hills, in the region near to the Sundara Mahalingam temple situated in Saptoor. The 2009 census reports show the presence of a tiger in Sathuragiri. The number of tahrs in the sanctuary has increased to about 220 in the 2011 census.
The sanctuary has been marked as an important birds area and about 200 species of birds had been found in the area, from which 14 species of birds like the broad tailed grass warbler, the long billed vultures, red faced malkoha, nilgiri wood pigeons, white backed vulture, and the white bellied shortwing are the natives of the Western Ghats.
A bird survey in 2013 observed in the sanctuary rare endemic species including Sri Lankan frogmouth, mountain and rufous-bellied hawk-eagles, great Indian and Malabar pied hornbills, mountain and green imperial pigeons which are all species found only in the higher altitudes of Western Ghats. Some of the rare migratory birds spotted included the steppe eagle, Eurasian sparrowhawk and bluecapped rockthrush.
The sanctuary has numerous  reptiles  including king cobras, Indian rock python  and many endemic species  namely pit vipers,  Ornate flying snake,  Draco or gliding lizard , large-scaled calotes and Calotes ellioti and amphibians including endemic ones like Micrixalus,  Indirana,  Nyctibatrachus,  Ramanella,  Rhacophorus malabaricus,  Raorchestes, Pseudophilautus. There are over 56 species of butterflies.
The Grizzled Squirrel
The Grizzled Squirrel (Ratufa macroura), which is the flagship species of this leafy retreat, is exceedingly restricted to south India and Sri Lanka. This lovely creature has a dorsal surface and tail; it is usually grey or brownish grey, grizzled with white. The squirrel breeds only once a year, producing a single offspring. The distribution of the Grizzled Squirrels is limited to seven secluded riparian dry deciduous forests within the Sanctuary. Grizzled squirrels feed primarily on fruit. When fruit is lacking, they feed on tender leaves.  Trees like tamarind, mango, neem, vagai, usil, naval, maruthu etc form an important part of their food tree species. The squirrels usually pop out of their nests as soon as daylight dawns; they reach their food trees and begin to feed and this activity goes on till 11 am. Between 3 to 4 pm is their next feeding schedule. In between 11 am and 3 pm is their siesta time
The forest of the sanctuary is a geographical combination of tropical evergreen forest, dry deciduous forests, semi evergreen forests, moist mixed deciduous forests, cultivated land and grasslands. In the Thaniparai region, the sanctuary occupies a Medicinal Plant Conservation Area.  The Paliyar tribe residing in the sanctuary makes use of 69 herbal plants in the area which belongs to 58 different taxa and 42 different families, in order to treat 15 ailments.
The forest sub-types found in the Sanctuary are; West coast tropical evergreen forest, West coast semi-evergreen forest, dry teak forest, Southern mixed deciduous forest and dry grass land. These forests are found on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats.

Only 6.3% of the total geographical area is under forests. The sanctuary has a wide range of floral diversity and many of them are found along the mountain slopes. The sanctuary has one Medicinal Plant Conservation Area (MPCA) located at Thaniparai.
The sanctuary has a wide range of habitats - from the higher elevation Upper Montane forests and grasslands, mid elevation Wet Evergreen, Semi Evergreen, Moist Deciduous, Open Deciduous, Closed Deciduous forests and grasslands with scrub jungles in the foot hills. The floral diversity is extremely rich owing to the different types of forest formations due to the altitudinal gradient and rainfall patterns.

The sanctuary is a mix of tropical evergreen forests and semi-evergreen forests (69.32 square kilometres (26.76 sq mi)), dry deciduous forests and moist mixed deciduous forests (51.66 square kilometres (19.95 sq mi)), grassland (152.18 square kilometres (58.76 sq mi)) and cultivated (121.07 square kilometres (46.75 sq mi)) km².
The conservation problems affecting the sanctuary are human-elephant conflict, human encroachment, cattle grazing and forest fire. Within the sanctuary, there are 7 to 10 temples which attract thousands of pilgrims every year. Water scarcity is a major problem during dry season due to lack of perennial water source.
Measures have been taken to conserve the wildlife in the sanctuary. The entry of cattle into the sanctuary is prevented, particularly in Kottamalai and Watrap. Leases for collection of fruits and minor forest produce have been stopped to increase the food sources. Tree planting, soil conservation and water harvesting have been undertaken to improve the habitat. The possibility of an elephant corridor could be studied by tracking elephants using radio collars.
Things to do
This sanctuary is ideal for nature walks and bird watching in the morning when tourists can spot different kinds of birds in their homes. Herds of elephants can be also to be found in the nearby pools.
Local tour packages offer various jungle safaris and nature walks that allow the tourists to enjoy the serene ambience of the jungle. The jungle records an annual rainfall of 849 mm. The nearest airport is Madurai Airport and the closest rail head is Villiputhur, which is 15 kms away from wildlife sanctuary. Tourists can avail the road route as jeeps and rented cars are the best options to reach the sanctuaries.
Important Facts
·        Season: All Year Round
·        Operating Hours: Mon-Sun : 06:00 AM - 06:00 PM
·  Contact Information: Wildlife warden,7 & 8 Valaikulam street, Srivilliputtur- 626 125, Phone:04563-260565
·        Area:485.2 Sq Km
·        Period Built: Estd. In 1988
·   Fee: Still Camera Fee: Rs. 25/-; Video Camera Fee: Rs. 150/-; Parking Fee: Rs. 15/-; Entry Fee: Child (Below 5 Years) - Free. Child (5 To 12 Years) - Rs. 10/- Adults - Rs. 15/-
Madurai International Airport lies at a distance of 100 km from Srivilliputtur Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary. Taxis are available at the airport for a comfortable ride up to the sanctuary.
Srivilliputtur railway station lies at a distance of 5 km from the wildlife sanctuary and you can disembark here for a comfortable rail journey to the sanctuary.
The sanctuary lies at a distance of 45 km from Virudhunagar town and is well connected by road network. Tamil Nadu State Road Transport Corporation buses are available at Virudhunagar for a comfortable ride to the wildlife sanctuary
There are no roads inside the sanctuary and hence visitors must cover it on foot. Guides are available on request from the Sanctuary office to accompany tourists on treks.