Notifying the Srivilliputhur-Megamalai area as the fifth tiger reserve in the state will give a fillip to the conservation of large mammals such as elephants, tigers, leopards, Indian gaur and Nilgiri tahr, besides the endangered grizzled giant squirrel, senior wildlife officials said.
The existing squirrel sanctuary has one of the best preserved forests south of Palghat gap. This sanctuary forms an important landscape for elephant conservation in Periyar tiger reserve. Owing to its large contiguous forests and connectivity with adjoining reserve forests, it’s the habitat of large mammals, a senior wildlife official said.
Significant parts of the Megamalai landscape encompassing Varushanad hills, Cumbam Valley and a portion of the northern slopes of the landscape together with the Madurai forest division were declared as the Megamalai wildlife sanctuary, considering the conservation significance of this hill chain in being home to endemic and threatened flora and fauna.
On the effect of the notification on tiger population, the official said environmental stress factors such as availability of prey, availability of potential males, and absence of human disturbances could help their population to grow further.
Tigers from the neighbouring Periyar tiger reserve and nearby Anamalai tiger reserve regions can find significant habitats in the highly undulating terrains of Srivilliputhur and Megamalai.
The new tiger reserve will be spread over 1.01 lakh hectares. Of this, 64,186.21 hectare will be the core area and 37,470.92 hectare will fall under the buffer zone.
The new tiger reserve has Madurai territorial forest division in the north, Virudhunagar and Madurai district revenue areas on its east, Tirunelveli forest division and Periyar tiger reserve (Kerala) in south and Theni revenue district, Theni territorial forest division and partly Periyar reserve on its west as boundaries.
The tiger reserve will be headed by a field director in the rank of chief conservator of forests. He will be stationed at Madurai. For this purpose, the post of chief conservator of forests, Madurai, will be re-designated as field director of the tiger reserve and chief conservator of forests, Madurai circle.
Madurai will be an ideal place, the official added, as it is located centrally.
It will also help in easy supervision of the two forest divisions of the new tiger reserve, while keeping in touch with the Periyar tiger reserve in the west, he said.