Kerala: return of the jungle

Nature is reestablishing in several parts of Kerala State. Otters have made a comeback to the mangroves in the Asramam area of Ashtamudi Lake in Kollam district. Nilgiri tahr and tigers are sighted in forest areas where they had not been seen for long. Sholas are re-establishing in upper Palani plateau of the Western Ghats not far from Munnar. Several plants in lower elevations too are on a comeback trail. Tribals of Wayanad have harvested more honey this year suggesting that the statuses of the systems that support bees are apparently improving.

Nilgiri tahr

Nilgiri tahr (ibex) and kids photographed at Eravikulam National Park, Munnar, Kerala. Photo by Roy Mathew

The Nilgiri tahrs, protected in Eravikulam National Park, have re-established themselves on hilltops near Lockhart Gap and Adimali outside the sanctuary area in recent years. There are increasing numbers of tahrs in the Mukkurthi National Park in Tamil Nadu.  Near viable populations have been reported from a location near Ponmudi in Thiruvanathapuram district at an elevation of about 900 metres.

(Tahrs have also been reported from Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary and Silent Valley National Park and more than a dozen other   locations in Kerala.  Many locations in the Nilgiris, Pulneys and Anamalais of Tamil Nadu also have populations of Nilgiri tahr. Srivilliputhur Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary, Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu are among the habitats of the tahr. They inhabit mountain slopes at altitudes ranging from 600 metres to 2600 metres.)

All these point to the fact that many species and ecosystems are resilient enough to make a comeback if adequate protection is accorded. However, the gains achieved in recent years could get reversed on account of climate change or laxity in protection.

For more information on Tahr population, see

2 thoughts on “Kerala: return of the jungle

  1. The word I have used is re-establish and it is not used in the manner that ecologists use it. The animals have not established a new habitat; but have only returned to areas that once belonged to them. One of the areas where tahrs reappeared is a peak close to tea plantations, and government land encroached by people.

    The expansion of sholas is visible and the areas they are reclaiming are shola forests which had been converted into plantations decades ago. The reverse is also happening with planted wattle spreading into shola forests in an invasive manner.

    Whatever be the conclusions that people may draw, fact is fact. But a point that is perhaps to be clarified is that what is returning is only a minute fraction of what was destroyed.

    More pics of ibex at

  2. The Nilgiri Tahr census had never been done in a scientific manner. So all the previous estimates of a total of 2000 was wrong. Systematic surveys are revealing that Nilgiri tahr’s are present in other areas. Similar is the case with tigers. I have no knowledge about the otter sighting. The point that I am trying to make is that your article along with its title is giving an impression that nature is reclaiming more and more areas and these endangered animal populations are increasing. That is not right and is likely to be misused by people saying that human-animal conflict is increasing as wildlife is on the rise. It is not the case.

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