Kerala holds fourteen separate reserves set aside for the protection of wildlife, covering a little under five percent of the Kerala’s total surface area. Most are up in the Western Ghat range, which preserves the highest concentrations of biodiversity anywhere in peninsular India. The majority of the peninsula’s larger mammals keep to the dense woodland of the Western Hat Mountains, where a cluster of reserves affords them some protection from the hunters and loggers who have wrought such havoc on India’s forest regions over the past few decades. Forests are magical and they have the power to change the perspective of human beings on nature. Few famous wild life sanctuaries are:
Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary
The Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary is spread over 55 sq km of undulating forested highlands on the slopes of the Western Ghats. The highest peak here – Katti Betta – rises to a majestic 1145 m above sea level.Covered with tropical and semi evergreen forests, the Aralam Sanctuary is home to a vast variety of flora and fauna endemic to the Western Ghats. Elephant, gaur, sambar, spotted deer, barking deer, Nilgiri langur, Hanuman langur, Malabar giant squirrel, etc can be seen here.
Begur Wildlife Sanctuary, Wayanad
The district of Wayanad lies on an elevated picturesque mountainous plateau in the Western Ghats. Historians are of the opinion that organised human life existed in these parts of Kerala at least ten centuries before Christ. In this virgin land, which has not seen much human habitation later, is Begur. The forests here are amongst the most beautiful locales of Kerala. The region has a wealth of diverse species of plants and animals and is of great interest to nature lovers. The Begur Wildlife Sanctuary is situated about 20 km east of Manathavady in Wayanad.
Chimmony Wildlife Sanctuary
The dense tropical forests of Chimmini (Chimmony), shelter diverse flora and fauna. The dam across the Chimmini River offers a breathtaking view. This picturesque picnic spot is a favourite haunt of the local people. Located in the Mukundapuram Taluk of Thrissur district, Chimmini is only a tow-hour drive from Kochi.The Chimmini Wildlife Sanctuary which was established in 1984 lies contiguous with the Peechi – Vazhani sanctuary. The sanctuary is endowed with scenic beauty beyond compare. Living here in joyful abandon are elephants, sambars, gaurs, Malabar squirrels, sloth bears etc.
Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Idukki
A unique thorny scrub forest with xerophyte species, Chinnar is the habitat for the endangered Giant Grizzled Squirrel of India. Their total number here would be less than 200. Located in the rain shadow area of the Western Ghats, unlike other sanctuaries in Kerala, Chinnar gets only less than two months of rain every year. Rich in wildlife, the mixed deciduous forests here are ideal for trekking.
An extensive Sandalwood forest nearby is an added attraction at Chinnar. This is also an ideal place for watching herds of gaur and elephants amble past. Dry deciduous forests, high sholas and some grassland add to the diversity of the sanctuary. As one travels from Karimuthi to Chinnar, elephants, spotted deer, sambar, hanuman langur and even peacocks can be spotted on either side of the road.
Choolannur Pea Fowl Sanctuary, Palakkad
Choolannur Pea Fowl Sanctuary (Mayiladumpara) is a grove at Nedungathpara takes its name from the large number of peacocks (mayil) found here that can be sighted often at dawn and dusk. About 200 peacocks inhabit the extensive forests of the Choolannur Pea Fowl Sanctuary at Nedungathpara near Palakkad. Not bound by gates, the sanctuary which has been home to peacocks since ages, allows free access to visitors.
Eravikulam National Park
It is an ideal place for seeing the biodiversity of high elevation shola-grassland ecosystem. Visitors are taken to Rajamalai in forest dept vehicles and given an opportunity to see all this. Private vehicles are not allowed here. The National Park is usually closed at the time of calving of Nilgiri Tahr which is usually during the early months of every year.
A sanctuary for the endangered mountain goat of South India, the Nilgiri Tahr (Hemitragus hylocrious), the Eravikulam National Park stands out for the stark beauty of its rolling grasslands and sholas, spread over 97 sq km in the Kannan devan hills.
Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary
A land-locked district, Idukki is one of the most nature-rich areas of Kerala. The Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary here spreads over an area of 105.364 sq km in the Thodupuzha and Udumpanchola taluks of the district. Situated at an altitude of 450-748 m above sea level, this sanctuary occupies the forest land between the Cheruthoni and Periyar rivers. There is a scenic lake around the sanctuary, covered by an enchanting canopy of tropical ever-green and deciduous trees, and offers boat rides.
Elephants, bison, sambar deer, wild dogs, jungle cats, tiger, wild boar etc. are seen here apart from various species of snakes including cobra, viper, kraits and numerous non-poisonous ones. Birds include grey jungle fowl, Malabar grey hornbill, several species of woodpeckers, bulbuls, flycatchers, etc. The wildlife here is similar to that of Thekkady. This sanctuary lies adjacent to the world renowned Idukki Arch Dam.
Kadalundi Bird Sanctuary
The Kadalundi Bird Sanctuary is spread over a cluster of islands in a scenic area surrounded by hillocks where the Kadalundi River flows into the Arabian Sea. The place is locally known as Kadalundi Nagaram. This virgin land is the abode more than a hundred species of native birds and over 60 species of migratory birds, like seagulls, terns, sandpipers, sandplovers, red and greenshanks, turnstones, that flock here in large numbers from November to April.
A hillock nearby, which is 200 m above sea level, offers a splendid view of the river mouth and the sea. Kadalundi is also known for a wide variety of fish, mussels and crabs. The mangrove vegetation here shelters otters and jackels.
Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary
Kumarakom bird sanctuary, spread across 14 acres, has an interesting variety of birdlife.If you are a bird enthusiast, visit the sanctuary between June and August, the breeding season of resident wetland birds such as Indian Darter, Little cormorant, different species of egrets and herons, white ibis, several species of kingfishers, etc. Between the months of November and May, the bushes and woods of the sanctuary play host to some rare migratory birds. The Vembanad lake body attracts waterfowl like pin-tailed duck, garganey teal, spot-billed duck, birds of prey like osprey, marsh harrier, steppe eagle, etc
Bird lovers can also take a boat trip to the nearby Kaipuzha Muttu, Pathiramanal, Narakathara, Thollayiram Kayal and Poothapandi Kayal to watch local birdlife and migrants which could easily be more than a hundred species.