BACKGROUND INFORMATION AND ATTRIBUTES
2.1 : Boundaries
2.1.1. External boundaries
The erstwhile Chinnar Reserve was notified as a Sanctuary in 1984. On the north and east, it shares a 30 km common boundary with the Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park of Tamil Nadu. On the west, it is boardered by the Eravikulam National Park. But on the southern side, it is boardered not only by the Reserve Forests of Marayur Range, but also by Revenue Lands. The original notification of the Chinnar Reserved Forest dates back to 1942 and the boundaries follow a jumble of cairn numbers and survey numbers. At present the boundaries are fully demarcated but in certain areas like Njavala-Ollavayal, the status is vague and may not correspond to the situation on the field. The boundary description is as follows:
North: Starting from cairn No.1 at the trijunction of the boundaries of Coimbatore District, Marayoor Pakuthy and Kannan Devan Hills at the North West corner of the Reserve, the line goes in a nearly north easterly direction for about 5643/4 chains along the Chinnar River to cairn No.2 at a State Boundary Survey Stone on the bank of the Chinnar River, thence more or less east- south east for about 2141/4 chains along the above said river to cairn No.3 at the State Boundary Survey Stone on the bank of the river side of that Survey No. for about 11/4 chains to cairn No.4 at its south west corner. (This is also the Western most point of S.No.251/1/1). Thence nearly east along the south side of the S.No. 257/1/1 for about 333/4 chains passing cairns No. 5 to 15 to cairn No.16 at its south east corner. Thence nearly south for about 63/4 chains to cairn 17 thence nearly south for about 63/4 chains passing cairn No.18 and crossing the approach road to the P.W.D. camp shed to cairn No.19 at the right bank of the thodu flowing to Chinnar River – then nearly north along that thodu for about 103/4 chains to cairn No.20 at its junction with the Chinnar River (from cairn numbers 16 to 20 the boundary follows the Western, Southern and Eastern Boundaries of the area allowed for the P.W.D. excluding the same from the reserve.) thence nearly east along the Chinnar River for about 71/2 chains to cairn No.21, on its bank; thence nearly south east for about 43/4 chains passing cairn number No.22, 23 to cairn No.24 on the West side of the approach road to the P.W.D. camp shed; thence east by slighly south for about 3/4 chains crossing the above road to cairn No.24A; thence nearly east- south east for 1 chain to cairn No.24B; thence nearly north-north east for 31/2 chains to cairn No.24C, thence east for 3/4 chains to cairn No.24D, thence north for 11/2 chains to cairn No.24E, thence west for 3/4 chains to cairn No.25; thence nearly north west for about 11/4 chains crossing the northern outlet road to cairn No.26 on the right bank of the Chinnar river situated 81 links north west of the State Boundary Survey Stone between distance 438 and 500, (from cairn 21 to 26 the boundary follows the Western, Southern and Eastern boundaries of the area allowed for the Excise Office Cart Stand and tollgate excluding the same from the reserve); thence nearly east along the same river for about 11 chains to cairn No.27 at the Revenue Stone at the North West Corner of Survey 261/1; thence nearly South West along its West side for about 11/4 chains to cairn No.28 at its South West Corner, thence along the West, South and East sides of Survey No. 259/1 for about 63/4 chains passing cairn Nos. 29 to 31 to cairn No.32 at its North East corner; thence nearly East along the Chinnar River for about 721/2 chains to cairn No.34; it is junction of Pambar River with Chinnar River.
East: Thence nearly South- South West along the left bank of the Pambar River for about 43/4 chains to cairn No. 36 situated on the left bank of Athioda stream at its confluence with the Pambar thence nearly South South-East along the Athioda Stream (the boundary between Travancore and Coimbatore District) for about 4511/4 chains to cairn 37 where Athiodai cross the State Boundary for about 1263/4 chains to cairn No.38 at the top of Jambu malai peak at the trijunction of Coimbatore and Madurai Districts and Travancore State (This peak is locally known as ‘Chinna Chambu Malai’).
South and West: Thence nearly south west along the state bondary for about 38 chains to cairn No. 39 at the boundary stone at the north-east corner of survey No. 72/1 of Kothukombu Pakuthy at the trijunction of Keelanthur and Kottakombu Pakuthies of Devikulam Taluk and Palani Taluk of Madurai District (This place is locally known as Vellimalai); thence in the same direction for about 631/2 chains along the boundary between Keelanthur and Kottakombu Pakuthies to cairn No. 40 at “Chenkannimala” thence nearly West South-West along the above Pakuthy boundary for about 531/4 chains passing Velliyangiri hills to cairn No. 41 at the Village Boundary Stone at the trijunction of Kilanthur, Kootakombu and Kanthaloor Pakuthies (this place is also known as Vattachola lower); thence nearly North West for about 231/2 chains to cairn No. 42 at a Village Boundary Stone between Kanthaloor and Kilanthur Pakuthies, (this place is also known as Vattachola Upper) thence in same direction but more to the West for 30 chains to cairn No. 43 on the right bank of the Vannanthorai Stream ; thence nearly West North West along the right bank of the above stream for about 1091/2 chains to cairn No. 44 (here the stream leaves the boundary)) thence nearly North for about 21/2 chains to cairn No. 45 it has theodolite stone at the South East Corner of Survey No. 300/1 of Kilanthur Pakuthies thence along the East side of the above survey Number for about 9 chains passing cairn No.s 46 and 47 to cairn No. 85 of Vannathorai Sandal Wood Reserve Block No. 11 at the theodolite stone at the North East Corner of Survey No. 300/1 thence along the Eastern, Northern and Western Boundaries of that reserve to its South West Corner at cairn No. 104 at a theodolite station on the right bank of the Kalikilavan Odai, thence nearly South West along the same bank of the said Oda for about 8 chains to its junction with the Vannanthorai River, thence along the right bank of the Vannanthorai River first nearly West North – West and then North-North West for about 1401/2 chains to cairn No. 48 at its junction with the Pambar River thence nearly North along the right bank of Pambar River for about 1071/2 chains to cairn No. 49 thence nearly North West for 21/2 chains crossing the Pambar River to cairn No. 50 on the left bank of Natchimuthu Odai at its confluence with the Pambar River: thence nearly South West along the left bank of the Natchimuthu Odai for about 831/4 chains to cairn No. 51 about 3/4 chains South of the theodolite stone at the South East Corner of Survey No. 256/1; thence nearly North West along the East side of the above Survey Number for 3 chains to cairn No. 52 at theodolite stone at its North East Corner; thence more or less West for its Eastern edge; thence more or less West for about about 7 chains to cairn No. 53 at the first quarter of the 29th mile of the near road on its Eastern edge; thence crossing the road for 1 chain to cairn No. 54 on its Western edge; thence along the same edge of the road first nearly West South West and then nearly North West for about 392 chains to cairn No. 65 where the Natchimuthu Odai crosses the above road; thence along the left bank of the same Odai for about 61/2 chains to cairn No. 56 on the Southern side of Survey No. 227/2; thence along and Southern side of Survey No. 227/2 and Southern, Eastern and Northern sides of Survey No. 227/1 for about 181/4 chains passing cairn No. 57 to 64 to cairn No. 65 at the North West Corner of Survey No. 227/1 on the left bank of the Natchimuthu Odai for about 483/4 chains to cairn No. 66 at the theodolite stone at the South West Corner of Surevey No. 2881/2; thence skirting the Southern Eastern and Northern sides of the above Survey No. for about 261/4 chains passing cairn No. 67 to 75 to cairn No. 76 at the theodolite stone at the North West Corner of the Survey Number on the left bank of the Natchimuthu Odai; thence first nearly North West and then West North -West along the same bank of the above Odai for about 156 chains to cairn No. 77 on the same bank Nandulamalai thence nearly South West for about 160 chains through Sy. No. 286/1/1 of Marayur Pakuthy passing cairn Nos. 78 to 80 to cairn No. 81 at a boundary stone on the boundary between the Kannan Devan Hills and Marayoor Pakuthies to the North of Kumarikal malai and to the East of Poovar thadam thence nearly North West along the above boundary for about 146 chains passing cairns 82 to 91 (this line crosses the Poovar between cairn Nos. 85 and 86) to cairn No. 1 at the starting point on the Northern Boundary.
2.1.2. Internal boundaries
The internal boundaries as specified in the 1942 notification are again vague and needs to be verified on the field.
2.2. Geology, rock and soil
Geologically the Sanctuary is comprised of gneissic metamorphic rocks from the Archean shield. The predominant rock type in the area is biotite gneiss and it is also associated with hornblende biotite gneiss in certain areas. The rocks are highly sheared and fractured at places. Joint systems are well developed. Drainage in the valley is highly influenced by these structural deformities. Intrusive bodies such as pegmatite dykes are reported from all areas. Dolerite dykes seen in lower altitudes constitute the basic intrusive. The valley is deeply eroded by the two rivers namely Chinnar and Pambar and their tributaries. Weathering is very intense as predominant rock type is gneissic. It was observed that the feldspars are altered to clay minerals. Valley fills comprise of mainly unconsolidated gravels and are of recent origin.
The soil is sandy to sandy loam in texture. Sandy nature is prevalent in the riparian zone. The soil reaction varies from slightly alkaline to strongly acidic depending on the vegetation type. The soil in scrub and dry deciduous forests are slightly alkaline in reaction. This is effected by low rainfall and weak leaching of bases. On the other hand the shola soils are strongly acidic in reaction due to higher rainfall regimes and also grater input of organic material into the soil from vegetation. The organic carbon content of the soils in different forest types is an indicator of the quantum of input and output of biological material in the systems. The carbon content is very low in the scrub and riparian forest, medium in the dry deciduous forest and very high in the shola forest (Table 1)
The gravel content in the soils in scrub forest is higher than in other vegetation types indicating high degree of erosion. In the shola soil the content of gravel is negligible and this is due to the closed canopy present there.
The terrain is undulating with hills and hillocks of varying heights. The altitude ranges from 400 m at Chinnar to 2372 m at Nandalamala. The other major peaks in the Sanctuary are Varayattumalai (1845m), Thengamalai (1422m), Vellakkalmalai (1883m), Jambumalai (1395m), Aralipana (1494m), Karumalai, Anakkunnu and Gellimalai. The area is drained by two perennial rivers passing through the Sanctuary, namely Chinnar and Pambar. During north east monsoon which is the dominant rainy season, a few ephemeral water sources take origin from higher mountains and drain the area and they dry up for the rest of the season.
The Sanctuary is situated in the rain shadow region and hence the area experiences prolonged hot/dry season and much less rainy days. The Chinnar plains are generally hot, but the higher altitudes are cool. Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary shows wide variations from the rule of altitudinal gradient determining microclimate. Apart from elevation, rainfall is an important parameter in regulating the temperature in the Sanctuary. The solar radiation in Chinnar is high, mainly because of less cloud cover.
The metereological data provided in the Plan were collected at Chinnar Checkpost and are typical to the dry thorn forests of the Sanctuary. Due to factors like altitude and aspect, there is large variation in the climatic conditions across the Sanctuary.
2.4.1 Rainfall pattern and distribution
The rainfall regime of the Sanctuary is characterized by the highly variable precipitation linked with the cyclonic disturbances affecting the Bay of Bangal during the withdrawal of monsoon. The major rainfall season is during the north-east monsoons occurring during October –December. The rainy days in a year range between 30 to 40 days which account for about 300-500 mm rainfall in Chinnar and adjacent areas. But the higher altitudes areas like Olikkudy and Mangappara receive rain during both north-east and south-west monsoons with comparatively much higher rainfall. On an average the region has 6-7 months of dry period in the lower reaches and a lesser amount of dry months in the higher reaches.
2.4.2 Temperature, a summary of year round pattern
The temperature of the area is influenced by the Coimbatore-Mysore thermic regime. The mean temperature is relatively constant from July to October. The region has 6-7 month of dry period in the lower areas and lesser dry months in the higher altitudes. The recorded lowest temperature is 12° C and the highest is 38° C with mean annual temperature of 36° C.
During north- east monsoon (Oct-Dec) the average humidity of the area is maximum and varies from 80% – 90 %. From June to September, the period of the south-west monsoons on the western aspects of the Ghats, the humidity varies from 60%-80 %. During the reast of the year, the average humidity varies from 57%-70%.
2.4.4. Wind speeds
The wind velocity recorded at Chinnar shows a more or less uniform magnitude except for the slightly higher speeds recorded during some monsoon months. The maximum wind speed is obtained during south-west monsoons (5.8m/s) and the average is around 1m/s.
2.5. Water sources
Chinnar and Pambar are the major sources of water. Both originate in the sholas of the upper reaches. Pambar traverses the Turner’s Valley in Eravikulam National Park and flows down into Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary through the Taliar Valley. Chinnar follows the interstate boundary. These two rivers merge at Koottar and drain into the Amaravathy reservoir in Tamil Nadu. Most of the rivulets and streams inside the Sanctuary come alive immediately after the north-east monsoons and dry up soon. The water in the check dams remain for a longer period but they also dry up during summer months. But a few streams originating from the upper reaches are perennial. Check dams also remain dry for most of the year and at present, are silted up. When the north-east monsoons fail, as in recent years, water becomes a limiting factor in many areas.
2.6 Range of wildlife, status, distribution & habitat
The Sanctuary offers a wide range of habitat types to the flora and fauna. Nine hundred and sixty five species of flowering plants, 28 species of mammals, 225 species of birds, 14 species of fish, 15 species of amphibians 156 species of butterflies and 52 species of reptiles have been recorded from the Sanctuary. Rainfall and terain are the important factors that influence animal movements. The 11 settlements spread across the sanctuary also have significant impact on the range of wildlife and habitat.
The vegetation shows an entire spectrum ranging from sub-temperate sholas to dry scrub of the arid plains. In many areas, the vegetation of the Sanctuary is highly disturbed mainly due to a combination of factors like earlier fellings and planting and anthropogenic pressures of the settlements inside and on the fringes, particularly cattle grazing. Therefore in many cases secondary forest types replace primary types and an obvious classification of forest types is impracticable. Notwithstanding these, the vegetation of the Sanctuary can be broadly classified in to the following types according to Champion and Seth (1968) and Chandrasekaran (1962). They are:
1. Southern tropical thorn forest (Scrub jungle)
2. Southern dry mixed deciduous forest (Dry deciduous forest)
3. Southern moist mixed deciduous forest (Moist deciduous forest)
4. Tropical riparian fringing forest (Riparian forest)
5. Southern montane wet temperate forest (Hill shola forest)
6. Southern montane wet grassland (Grasslands)
The dominant vegetation is dry deciduous forest followed by scrub forest. Together they constitute about 50 % of the total forest area. They are located in the low altitude areas. The riparian fringing forests are linearly distributed along the hill folds and occupy a small but considerable area. Shola forests occupy a tiny fraction of the total area.
Southern tropical thorn forest (Scrub jungle)
This is the least distributed forest type in Kerala and is the second major forest type in the Sanctuary with regard to the area. The open low forest type is characterized by xerophytic species with short bole and low branching. The canopy is wide open. Therefore the canopy level differentiation is indistinguishable. The hardwood trees, thorny shrubs and climbers are characteristic features of the forest type. The undergrowth is furnished with some herbaceous forms during monsoon and remains exposed for the rest of the time. This forest type is distributed at Chinnar, Champakkadu, Chunkam, Nellimedu and on the slopes of Alampetty, Ichampetty, Palapetty etc.
The major species representing the forest type are Acacia spp.,Euphorbia spp.,Capparis spp.,Opuntia spp., Ziziphus spp., Grewia spp., Cordia spp., Albizia amara, Atalantia monophylla, pleiospermium alatum, Prosopis juliflora, Dichrostachys cinerea, Diospyros cordifolia, Pisonia aculeate, Carissa carandas, Strychnos potatorum, Ceropegia juncea, Pergularia daemia, Caralluma spp., Helixanthera spp., etc.
Southern dry mixed deciduous forest (Dry deciduous forest)
The forest type is characterized by predominant hardwood deciduous tree species. The canopy is open with poor undergrowth. Bamboos are barely represented. The canopy level is vague in this type also. This is the dominant forest type in the Sanctuary constituting nearly 30%. It is found near settlements of Palapetty, Alampetty, Ichampetty, Karimalai, Thayannankudi, Puthukudi etc.
The most characteristic species present invariably in the forest type are Anogeissu latifolia, Chloroxylon swietenia, Hardwickia binata, Boswellia serrata, Santalum album, Cassia fistula, Sterculia urens, Sapindus emarginatus, Canthium coromandelicum, Tarenna asiatica, Dodonaea angustifolia, Garuga floribunda, Shorea roxburghii, etc.
Southern moist mixed deciduous forest (Moist deciduous)
The closed high forest is characterized mostly by deciduous plants, only for a brief time compared to the above forest type. The forest type covers less than 8% area of the sanctuary at Palapetty, Karimalai, Puthukudy, Ichampetty, Alampetty etc. The occasional occurrence of some of the characteristic tree species of the forest type along with the notable absence of some predominant trees like Terminalia spp., Xylia xylocarpa, Careya arborea and Dillenia pentagyna might be due to the clearance of this forest type for converting to agricultural purpose. The view is strengthened beacaue most of the agricultural areas are lying mixed with this forest type.
The upper canopy trees are Grewia tiliifolia, Schleichera oleosa, Wrightia tinctoria, Bridelia crenulata, Buchanania lanzan, Pterocarpus marsupium, Gmelina arborea, Sterospermum colais, Albizia odoratissima, etc. The species forming the middle canopy include Premna tomentosa, Atalantia racemosa, Cipadessa baccifera, Clerodendrum serratum, C. viscosum, etc.
The undergrowth constitutes Helicteres isora, Desmodium velutinum, Indigofera pulchella, Rhinacanthus nasutus, Justicia betonica, etc.
Tropical riparian fringing forest (Riparian forest)
The forest type is characterized by a few evergreen and semi-evergreen species restricted on the sides of streams forming a narrow fringe. In the Sanctuary, the forest type is restricted mostly along the side of the Pambar and Chinnar rivers.
The dominant species are Terminallia arjuna, Hopea parviflora, Bischofia javanica, Mangifera indica, Drypates roxburghii, Vitex leucoxylon, Pongamia pinnata, Garcinia gummi-gutta, Mallotus stenanthus, Calophyllum calaba, Entada rheedei, Lepisanthes tetraphylla, Syzygium cumini, Schefflera racemosa, Homonoia riparia, Vitex altissima, Salix tetrasperma, Gnetum ula, etc.
Southern montane wet temperate forest (Hill shola forest)
The high altitude evergreen closed forest is characterized by short boled and branchy species. The attractive canopy of the shola species in varying shades of red, is really a fascinating view and is also one of the conspicuous features of this forest type. The forest type is localized at three places, Olikkudy shola, Kariveppin shola and Koyaman shola at altitudes above 1300 m. This is the only undisturbed forest type in the Sanctuary covering about 0.25% of the total area. There is no marked differentiation of canopy layers.
The dominant species of the forest type are Syzygium spp., Elaeocarpus recurvatus, Actinodaphne malabarica, Agrostistachys indica, Fagraea ceylanica, Cryptocarya anamallayana, Calamus gamblei, Pittosporum spp., Gordonia obtuse, Mallotus tetracoccus, Aglaia elaeagnoidea, Gomphandra coriacea, Microtropis parviflora, Meliosma pinnata, Rhodomyrtus tomentosus, Mussaenda tomentosa, Ardisia pauciflora, Cinnamomum verum, Litsea wightiana, Cassine paniculata, Ficus amplocarpa etc.
Southern montane wet grassland (Grasslands)
The high altitude natural grasslands are located along the boundary with Eravikulam National Park above Olikkudy and along the south-eastern extremity above Mangapparakudy. The predominant species are Arundinella mesophylla, A. setosa, Apluda mutica, Ischaemum nilagiricum, Setaria pumila, Themeda triandra, Cymbopogon flexuosus, Echinochloa colona, Digitaria wallichiana, Chrysopogon zeylanicus, Viola betonicifolia, Pimpinella candolleana etc.
Agricultural lands and plantations
The vegetation on the slopes and hilltops have been cleared earlier by the tribes for cultivation of lemon grass and food crops. The abandoned cultivated areas are devoid of shrubs and trees for a considerable area and the vegetation of that area is dominated with grasses. The lemon grass cultivation is a common practice among tribes and considerable portion of the agriculture land is utilized for this purpose. Teak and eucalyptus plantations in small patches have been raised in the past at Vanchikualm and Ollavayal. The agricultural lands comprise nearly 7% of the area of the Sanctuary.
The likelihood for exotic weeds to come up is higher wherever the natural vegetation is disturbed and in turn it is a measure to estimate the degree of disturbance of the vegetation. However, once exotics are spread, they gradually suppress the natural regeneration and take dominance over the other species due to their increased and wide adaptability resulting in the loss of biodiversity and endemism. A considerable area where shifting cultivation was being practised in the past, is occupied by exotics. The areas with exotics are spread at various regions of the Sanctuary. The major exotics in the sanctuary are Lantana spp., Parthenium hysterophorus, Argemone mexicana, Vicoa India, Euphorbia spp., Chromolaena odorara etc.
The area composed of barren land and exposed rock constitutes a considerable part of the Sanctuary. As per available records based on the extent of exposed rocks, the habitat is getting degraded. Selection felling in the past in some localities and operations such as preparing the land for plantations in some other localities have resulted in opening up of canopy and weed infestation. Other anthropogenic pressures such as road traffic, fire wood and NWFP collection, grazing , agricultural activities and fire are also responsible for the degradation of a vast area of forests in the Sanctuary.
Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is rich in faunistic diversity especially of the lower vertebrates. Among 14 species of fishes observed in the Chinnar and Pambar rivers, Garra mullya, Barilius gatensis and Danio aequipinnatus are found to be abundant. A healthy population of Tor khudree, the endangered hill stream fish was also recorded. Puntius carnaticus and Garra gotyla stenorhynchus are new records for South of Palghat gap. The recent finding of Barilius bandelisis confirms its occurrence in Kerala.
Bufo parietalis, Rhacophorus malabaricus and Nyctibatrachus major recorded from the Sanctuary are endemic amphibians to Western Ghats while Micrixalus saxicola is endemic to Kerala. Amphibians are low in number of species. Two species of tortoise were recorded. Geochelone elegans is an endangered species adapted to the dry deciduous habitat and in Kerala, its distribution is restricted to Chinnar. The Sanctuary with 52 species of reptiles is rich in terms of number of species. Out of the 29 species of snakes observed, 5 species belong to the blind snake group, 16 are colubird, 2 are boas, 2 are elapids and 4 are viperids. Among the blind snakes, the worm snakes were represented by 4 species of typhlops. Ampheiesma beddomei, a rare snake endemic to Western Ghats and the saw scaled viper, Echis carinata are present. The agamids in Chinnar are widely distributed. Geckoella collagalensis, a rare gecko is also recorded from the Sanctuary.
The dry open scrub forests of Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary provide an excellent habitat for a wide variety of mammals, birds, butterflies and reptiles. Chinnar has the only population of Grizzled Giant Squirrel in Kerala. The estimated population is about 240. Apart from the rare rusty spotted cat and Nilgiri tahr, the important mammals found in the Sanctuary are elephant, tiger, leopard, gaur, wild boar, sambar, spotted deer, barking deer, porcupine, wild dog,, common langur, bonnet macaque, jackal, sloth bear, Nilgiri langur, jungle cat etc. The Chinnar plains have groups of bison, spotted deer and sambar. Tigers are present but their home ranges extend to the neighbouring forests. Leopards are common. There is marked seasonality in the movement of elephants and gaur. The legendry white bison has been recently sighted in the Chinnar plains. After the outbreak of an unknown disease in the early 90s and the mortality that followed, the population of sambar still remains low in number. Spotted deer is the dominant herbivore in number.
The number of Bonnet macaques at Chinnar is observed to be increasing. The increase in tourist numbers and feeding by people may have led to this. The estimated number of elephants is about 50-60. The male to female ratio is 1:6 and the female to young ratio is 1:3.5
Chinnar excels in diversity of birds and the yellow throated bulbul was recently recorded. When the south-west monsoons arrive in the hills, there is an exodus of small sun birds to the riverine forests.
HISTORY OF MANAGEMENT AND PRESENT PRACTICES
Chinnar Reserved Forest was a Section of Marayur range of Munnar Division and the area was managed as per the Working Plan of Munnar Division. Parts of Chinnar plains were felled during the 70s to raise plantations. These plantations failed and this resulted in scrub open jungle in the Chinnar plains. Some of the upper reaches have been planted with wattle and Eucalyptus. The area was declared as Sanctuary in 1984 and henceforth strict protection is enforced. The slash and burn cultivation practiced by the tribal people, especially Muduvans has changed the landscape a lot. A number of enclosures belonging to various agencied existed even while the area was a Reserved Forest. Most of the revenue enclosure at Churulipetti belonging to settlers have been acquired under Project Elephant aftre Chinnar became a Sanctuary.
3.2 Timber operations
Felling had taken place in the past along the riverine tract. Sandalwood was being extracted regularly. The matured sandal trees were removed by the Forest Department after marking. Extraction of dead sandal trees was practiced even after declaration as a Sanctuary. The dead and wind fallen timber also were extracted in order to reduce the fire hazard. Now no extraction is being carried out because of the Apex Court order.
3.3 Non Wood Forest Produce collection
There are 11 tribal settlements within the sanctuary of which 7 belongs to Muthuvas and rest to Hill Pulayas. Other than their agricultural practices they traditionally collect the minor forest produces like emplica, chebula, mangoes, honey etc. from the sanctuary. Other subsistence products like small timber, firewood and grass are also collected.
No part of the Sanctuary area is leased to any bodies/organizations.
3.5 Other programme and activities
The presence of the 11 settlements inside the sanctuary gives rise to complex management issues. Other agencies and departments like tribal dept., Panchayats, agricultural dept. etc operate within the sanctuary. To reduce the negative impacts of PA on people and vice versa, an ecodevelopment programme was started under the World Bank aided Kerala Forestry Project in 1998 and is still under implementation.
3.6 Forest protection
3.6.1. Legal status
The various rights, both public and private, that existed in the Chinnar Reserve Forest prior to its declaration as a PA, still exist. Though most of the Churulipetti enclosure was acquired under Project Elephant, some bits still remain to be taken over. The rights and concessions of other departments like PWD, Electricity Board, Excise etc. have not been properly reviwed after declaration as a Sanctuary. Both PWD and Excise have enclosures within the Sanctuary. The status of the lands at Njavala-Ollavayal is still ambiguous. Presently various schemes are implemented by the other departments for the welfare of the tribals. This is being done with out formally informing the Sanctuary authorities. The 220kv line that cuts through the Sanctuary has fragmented some of the important habitats like riverine forests. The 16km PWD road that traverses through the Sanctuary has already created certain impediments to elephant movements. The increased traffic along the road throughout day and night is a constant source of disturbance to movement of wildlife. From 11 pm to 5 am, on an average 20 vehicles pass through this road. Both the ends of the road are secured by check posts. Due to the tribal settlements within the Sanctuary, although forbidden, cattle grazing and goat rearing is a common phenomenon.
3.6.2. Poaching and other illegal activities
There has been only two detected cases of poaching in the last 5 years, both involving killing of bison. But the wildlife rich areas between Champakad and the boarder at Pattimuthan are not frequently patrolled and at present there is no permanent infrastructure like road or building in this area. There is only one case involving ganja cultivation inside the Sanctuary but there is large scale organized ganja cultivation in the adjoining revenue area of Kambakallu for which proposals have been made for inclusion in the Sanctuary. The presence of ganja cultivation on the periphery is a potential threat to wildlife in the Sanctuary. The influence of the ganja cultivators on the tribals within the Sanctuary, especially Muduvans, both in terms of monitory benefits and a climate of fear, has been negatively affecting the ecodevelopment initiatives.
22.214.171.124 Illegal removal of sandalwood
Sandalwood smuggling has become the major protection problem in Chinnar. During the past 5 years, 68 number of cases have been booked. The smugglers come from TN side and Kerala side. In many cases the Hill Pulaya tribals are made use of by the smugglers. The attraction of quick profits from sandal smuggling also impedes the progress of ecodevelopment activities. Also, keeping constant vigil over sandal, seriously deplete staff time and strength, which would otherwise have been spent on activities like ecodevelopment, nature education and extension, monitoring, wildlife tourism etc.
126.96.36.199 Illegal removal of Non Wood Forest Produce
At present collection of NWFP is done by the tribals of the settlements and other villagers from the fringes. There is no demarcation of the areas of collection and access rules for the settlements. Damage is being done to the resources because of the inter hamlet and intra hamlet competition. The Ecodevelopment Committees do not have effective control on collection and sale of NWFP. The traders in Marayur collect the produce. The collection of mangoes and goosebury appears to be damaging as the branches are removed by cutting. There is marginal reduction in NWFP collection after the implementation of the ecodevelopment project but as there is no ecological base line data, the level of reduction or the impact of reduction cannot be gauged objectively.
3.6.3 Livestock grazing
Altogether about 300 cows, 850 goats and 30 buffaloes belonging to the tribals in the settlements, graze inside the Sanctuary. Apart from this, cattle and goats belonging to outside settlements like Karimutty, Koilkadavu etc. also graze inside. Other agencies like the Panchayat supply cattle to the settlements and cattle is considered by the villagers as a dependable source of income in times of emergency. Sale of cattle brings in immediate returns without any investment. Cattle from outside are not properly controlled at present because there is no infrastructure like cattle pound to implement the provisions of the cattle trespass act. Feral cattle move between Indira Gandhi Sanctuary of TN and Chinnar WLS. There is marked degradation of the forests surrounding the hamlets with high level of cattle pressure. No study has been done to assess and quantify the impact of grazing on the ecosystem as a whole. The presence of cattle distributed all over the Sanctuary is a potential threat for outbreak of diseases like foot and mouth, anthrax etc. No regular or systematic program of inoculation is carried out.
3.6.4 Wild fires
As Chinnar has a different pattern of rainfall, the fire season does not correspond to areas elsewhere. The dry season extends well into the south west monsoon period in most of the areas other than the montane vegetation of the high altitude zones. The current practice involves total protection from fire by taking firelines and engaging fire protection mazdoors. Also, as mutual commitment of microplans prepared for EDCs, fire protection of a prescribed area adjoining the settlements is undertaken. At present there is no system of recording the incidence of fires and monitoring the after effects.
3.6.5 Wildlife health
During early 90s an unknown disease struck the sambar population and the population has not yet recovered. The quality of water impounded in check dams has not yet been checked. There is no institutionalized programme of inoculation of cattle.
3.6.6 Inter-agency programmes and problems
Because the 11 hamlets are situated inside the Sanctuary, the PA has a history of other developmental agencies operating inside. The Jilla, Block and Grama Panchayats operate independently within the hamlets. There are 2 Grama Panchayats having jurisdictions over the PA. Their planning is done independently and this creates friction during implementation period. Other agencies like Tribal Dept. and Agriculture Dept. also act independently. Social service organizations also operate. At present, there is no system for integrating and dovetailing the activities of different agencies. Because of the haphazard ways in which different agencies operate, the ongoing ecodevelopment programme keeps losing its focus and the tribals often confuse it as a negative programme that blocks other opportunities.
3.7 Visitor Management and Conservation Education
In Chinnar, the few tourism activities that take place, are confined within the tourism zone, on either sides of Marayur-Udumalpet road. Being a main road, there is no control on vehicular traffic and any visitor can move along the main road without any permission. Now the only major activity that is offered is a visit to the watch-tower. Apart from this, treks are arranged in a haphazard manner. But there is no mechanism for ensuring benefit to local people. There is one tree top hut at Chinnar that is built by the District Tourism Promotion Council but controlled by the Forest Departemnt and this is hardly being used. There is one dormitory at Chinnar and one IB each at Chinnar and Marayur. A newly constructed interpretation center exists at Chinnar but it is not yet set up and made open to public. The information center at Marayur is not functioning and the Children’s Park and Deer Refuge at Marayur is open to public, free of charge. Signboards are erected at different locations to give instructions and provide information about the concerned laws and penalties. Boards also highlight the need of conservation of various habitats.
3.7.2 Conservation Education
Nature camps are conducted regularly for School/College students, NGO’s etc. The camps are being held at the Chinnar dormitory and extends to 3 days. The camps involve field visits and classes. Participation of local people and schools in these camps is very low. Extension activities are also far and few between. Very limited human resource is available for carrying out nature interpretation and extension activities. Hence, the lack of professionalism and method are felt in all these camps and programs.
3.8 Research, monitoring and training
3.8.1.Research and monitoring
Various studies have been carried out in Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. Most of the studies focus on ecological aspects. The studies were conducted on subjects like the Flora of the Sanctuary, natural salt licks of the area, plant diversity, habitat utilization of larger mammals etc. Studies were also done on the cropping systems of the tribes, social-enthnobotanical aspects etc. Some of these studies revealed the occurrence of rare and endangered fauna and flora like starred tortoise, saw scaled viper,rusty spotted cat, Albizia lathami etc. Monitoring of the animals, especially Grizzled Giant Squirrel and birds are regularly conducted by the department. But there is no system of prompt recording and publishing.
Except for study tours for ecodevelopment and brief training courses, most of the staff are undertrained. They have not undergone any form of wildlife training or training in the use and maintenance of fire arms, wireless etc. Scarcity of staff and the large array of activities deter them from undergoing any training programmes seriously. The daily wages watchers who play a significant role in protection and management also lack training.
3.9 Wildlife conservation strategies & evaluation
The strategy of conservation is firmly based on protection especially focusing on sandalwood. As a measure of strong protection, staff and watchers are posted in strategic locations and move around both at night and day. The ecodevelopment programme has created better relationship with the communities, but this has not been effectively built into the protection network. Because of the imperatives of protection, other activities like nature education, ecodevelopment, monitoring etc. are lagging behind.
3.10 Administrative set up
Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is one Range of Eravikulam Wildlife Division, with Headquarters at Munnar which is 60km from Chinnar, the major centre of the Sanctuary. The office of the Assistant Wildlife Warden is at Marayur. The Sanctuary has a staff strength of only two Foresters, seven Forest Guards and one Driver. Additionally, watchers on daily wages are engaged for various purposes like protection, monitoring, fire control etc. At present the Sanctuary has only one section. There is no separate staff for ecodevelopment apart from a social worker temporarily engaged for that purpose. Now there is a concentration of facilities at Chinnar. The other entry point at Karimutty has only limited facilities.
Permanent wireless stations operate at Chinnar Check Post, Marayur in the Assistant Wildlife Warden’s office and at Bandhar which is situated away from the Sanctuary at an elevation of about 8000ft. Bandhar connects the field stations to the Warden’s office at Munnar. Assistant Wildlife Warden’s Jeep is provided with mobile wireless unit. There is telephone facility at the Wildlife Warden’s office at Munnar, but not at the Asst.Warden’s office at Marayur.
Wildlife Warden, Munnar 04865-231587
3.12 Summary of threats to wildlife
As the Sanctuary has a 30km boarder with TN, protection becomes complicated due to administrative reasons. The sandalwood issue remains the core around which all other activities revolve. Other management objectives can be achieved only if this problem is addressed properly. Ganja cultivation in the adjacent revenue areas within the ecological boundaries poses a serious problem to the integrity of the Protected Area.
THE PROTECTED AREA AND THE INTERFACE LAND USE SITUATION
4.1 The existing situation in the zone of influence
There are 11 settlements within the Sanctuary, of which 7 belongs to Muthuvas and the rest to Hill Pulayas. The two tribal communities-Muthuvas and Hill Pulayas differ from one another in social, cultural and anthropological aspects. All the 11 kudies inside the Sanctuary are currently covered under the Ecodevelopment programme.
The Muduvans practiced shifting cultivation till a decade ago but after 1984 when the Wildlife Sanctuary came into existence, they were forced to take to sedentary agriculture. Recently, lemon grass cultivation has caught up popularity among Muthuvans. Muthuva settlements in the Sanctuary are located mostly in the difficult terrain and relatively higher rainfall zones.
Hill Pulayas are found only in the Idukki District in Kerala. They are part of the larger population of Hill Pualayas in Palni hills. They are also called Kurumba Pulaya, Karaivazhi Pulaya and Pambar Pulay. Although Tamil speaking, the Hill Pualyas of Chinnar are well versed in Malayalam too due to the influence and interaction with Malayalis. Hill Pulayas are believed to be a warrior community that migrated to forested regions following the losses in some ancient wars. They were basically a hunter-gather community possessing rich folklore on landscape, vegetation, animals and other local resources. Hunting-gathering activities not only helped them to acquire knowledge on spatial and temporal distribution of resources but also helped them to accumulate good amount of knowledge on landscape and other resource.
The traditional knowledge on local climate is scattered but dependable. Apart from the food gathering activities, hut making is another area where traditional knowledge and technology has developed among the Hill Pulayas. Their practical knowledge on the movement pattern, habits and habitat characteristics of animals is excellent.
Hill Pulayas of Chinnar are by and large wage labours in the agriculture fields of Marayoor. Besides this, they also cultivate lemon grass to distil lemon grass oil. Goat and cattle rearing, though forbidden by Sanctuary rules, is still widely practiced.
The species used by Hill Pulays and Muthuvas include plants used as medicine, food, detergent, hut-making, fodder, firewood, rope, teeth and vessel cleaning, dog and fish poison, religious plants etc. There are also products like chebulic myrobalan, camboge, gooseberry, soap-bark, broom-material, soap-nut, tottam-parel etc. which were collected and marketed earlier. At present tubers of Asparagus racemosus, Dioscorea sp., stem and leaves of Boerhaavia diffusa, Cassia alta, Cleome viscose, Cleome monophylla and fruits of Canthium caromandelicum, Ficus recemosa, Garacinia gummi-gutta, Grewia tiliaefolia, Memecylon umbelletum, Mitrephora heyneana, Opuntia dillenii, Solanum torum,etc. are collected for food or marketed by the Hill Pulayas. But the removal of firewood of species like Albizia odoratissima, Hardwickia binata, Ixorapavetta, Catunaregam spinosa, Anogeissus latifolia, Cordia gharaf, Diospyros ebenum, D. ovalifolia, Hopea parviflora etc. for domestic purpose and for distillation of lemongrass oil has the negative impact on the natural flora of the area. Moreover, being tree species, that too of dry deciduous forest areas, indiscriminate removal of such plants from their natural habitat have both direct and indirect impacts especially on the associated flora.
Of the total 141 species recorded to be ethonobotanically important, 57 taxa are those used exclusively by Hill Pulayas and 27 taxa are those related to the traditional life of Muthuvas. Over exploitation, destructive collection procedures, excessive collection of the regeneration part like fruits, roots, etc. are the major reasons for the impoverishment of the natural population of the species. Even overall degradation of the forest ecosystem is also accelerating the process of such plants getting rare in the area.
4.2 PA- People mutual impact
Being inside the forests, the 11 settlements have significant impact on the forests around and vice versa. All the settlements are demarcated, but there is no serious restraint on the activities of the people in terms of meeting their necessities like firewood collection, cattle grazing, NWFP collection etc. Due to the awareness activities of ecodevelopment and support to agriculture, there is reduction in dependency. But this may not be to the desired extent. Lemon grass cultivation still remains the major source of income and this demands a great strain on available biomass. The collection of NWFP is not always sustainable and at times positively destructive as the mango collection from the riverine forests that harbour the highly endangered GGS. There is intense grazing pressure on the dry forests around settlements leading to degradation of forests and soil.
All the settlements suffer badly from crop depredation by wild animals especially wild boar. Apart from the inability to shift their settlements due to constraints imposed by the PA rules, wildlife damage appears to be the most oppressive aspect of the PA.
Other settlements outside the PA are also exerting a negative influence. They graze cattle inside the PA. There is one nontribal settlement namely Njavala within the PA on the periphery and its impact is yet to be assessed. Also the status of this settlement remains vague. People from the forest villages of Talinji and Manjampatti in TN use the PA routes for movements and transport of provisions on mule backs as these routes provide easier means of access.
4.3 The development programmes and conservation issues
Different government and non-government agencies operate in all the settlements inside the Sanctuary. All of them do so without intimating the management of the PA. This leads to paradoxical situations like proliferation of cattle inside the PA, legally and ecologically unimplementable development schemes prepared by the local bodies etc. The main road that passes through the PA is under the control of the PWD and some of their recent activities like widening the road, have led to problems like impeding elephant movements across the road. The 220kv line has already fragmented the riverine habitat of the GGS and the undergrowth clearance will stop the regeneration from coming up. Investigation for a power project at Chinnar, using the water from Pambar, still goes on.
For the people inside the PA, Marayur controls their economic life as they sell their products and buy necessities from Marayur. The long existing exploitative relationship of the debt trap system still continues unabated. For reducing the dependency of people on PA resources by providing them financial and technical assistance for alternate means of livelihood, the ecodevelopment program was started. Though different schemes under ecodevelopment are in progress, the expected output has not yet materialized.
The majority of people feel that the shift from Reserved Forest to PA has not been beneficial to them. They feel that the PA has only curtailed their freedom and immobilized their developmental opportunities. Moreover, the PA has facilitated the increase in crop depredation. This attitude fosters an urge to find means of subsistence through illegal and unsustainable means. Though the ecodevelopment programme has opened up a path of dialogue with the people, its more positive aspects like income generation and active participation of people in protection, have not yet become starkly evident.
4.4 Stakeholders’ perception
Two stakeholder workshops were conducted. The problems highlighted during the workshops also led to the formulation of objectives and strategies. The stakeholders emphasized on participatory management approaches for mitigating anthropogenic impacts, control of crop depradation and promotion of ecotourism. Part II of the Plan was formulated taking into consideration all aspects of stakeholder perception.
4.5 Ecodevelopment initiatives
Under the Kerala Forestry Project all the 11 settlements have been brought under the ecodevelopment programe. The programme is under implementation. Though it took off well, it has currently reached a state of inertia. The major causes for this were identified as the following:
1. Some of the basic premises had obviously gone wrong.
2. The PTR model that involves ecodevelopment of ‘fringe-area people’ was unquestioningly adopted as the optimum model for Chinnar which has ‘core-area people’
3. A team could not operate exclusively for ecodevelopment. Ecodevelopment programme was just another part of routine duty.
4. Issues of conservation were made to dominate over issues of survival and traditional practices of tribes.
5. In general, tribal communities are unable to deal rapidly with the complexities of new technologies, marketing etc. without very strong outside institutional support.
Accordingly new strategies are being formulated in this Plan.