Eravikulam National Park

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Overview:

Eravikulam National Park (ENP), the natural habitat of the Nilgiri tahr, will soon be closed for the calving season of the species.

About Eravikulam National Park

  • Location: It is located along the Western Ghats in the Idukki district of Kerala.
  • It was declared as National Park in 1978.
  • The Park covers an area of 97 sq.km.
  • The highest peak south of the Himalayas, the Anamudi (2695 meters), is situated on the southern side of the park.
  • This is also the land of “Neelakurinji”, the flower that blooms once every twelve years. 
  • Climate: The park receives heavy showers during the southwest (June/July) and retreating (October/November) monsoons and is one of the wettest areas of the world.
  • Vegetation: The major part of the park is covered with rolling grasslands, but several patches of shola forests are also found in the upper part of the valley. 
  • Flora:
    • Important flora includes Actinodaphne bourdilloni, Microtropis ramiflora, Pittosporum tetraspermium, Sysygium aronottianum, Chrysopogon Zelanieus, etc.
    • The shola grasslands are exceptionally rich in balsams and orchids, including the long thought extinct variety Brachycorythis wightii.
  • Fauna:
    • The Nilgiri Tahr, Gaur, Sloth Bear, Nilgiri Langur, Tiger, Leopard, Giant Squirrel, and wild dog are the common species.
    • Half the world population of the endangered Nilgiri Tahr lives here.
    • The Atlas moth, the largest of its kind in the world, is seen in this park.
    • 140 species of birds, of which 10 are unique to the Western Ghats. More than 100 varieties of butterflies have been recorded here. 

Key Facts about Nilgiri tahr

  • It is an endangered mountain ungulate endemic to the southern part of the Western Ghats. 
  • Scientific Name: Nilgiritragus hylocrius
  • Locally, the animal is called ‘Varayaadu’.
  • They are known for their gravity-defying skills in climbing steep cliffs, earning them the nickname Mountain Monarch.
  • It is the state animal of Tamil Nadu.
  • Distribution:
    • Their present distribution is limited to approximately 5% of the Western Ghats in southern India (Kerala and Tamil Nadu).
    • Eravikulam National Park in Kerala has the highest density and largest surviving population of Nilgiri tahr. 
  • Habitat: They inhabit the open montane grassland habitats at elevations from 1200 to 2600 m of the South Western Ghats.
  • Features:
    • It has a stocky body with short, coarse fur and a bristly mane. 
    • Both sexes have curved horns, which are larger in the males, reaching up to 40 cm in males and 30 cm in females. 
    • Adult males develop a light grey area or ’saddle’ on their backs and are hence called ‘saddlebacks’.
    • It has a short grey-brown or dark coat.
  • Conservation Status:
    • IUCN Red List: Endangered
    • Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, 1972: Schedule I

Q1) What are shola forests?

The Shola forests of South India derive their name from the Tamil word solai, which means a ‘tropical rainforest’. Classified as ‘Southern Montane Wet Temperate Forest’, the Sholas are found in the upper reaches of the Nilgiris, Anamalais, Palni hills, Kalakadu, Mundanthurai and Kanyakumari in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.These forests are found sheltered in valleys with sufficient moisture and proper drainage, at an altitude of more than 1,500 metres. The upper reaches are covered with grasslands, known as Shola grasslands. The vegetation that grows in Shola forests is evergreen.

Source: Eravikulam National Park to be shut from February 1 for calving season of Nilgiri tahr