Valparai is a mid-elevation hill station with a very wonderful wildlife. The tea plantations are surrounded by evergreen forest. The region is also a rich elephant tract and is known to have many leopards. The drive to the town from Pollachi passes through the Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary noted for elephants, boars, lion-tailed macaques, gaur,Leopard Cats, Wild Dogs. spotted deer, sambar,Leopard, Tiger and giant squirrels. The area is also rich in birds, including the great hornbill. Water bodies at Monkey Falls and Aliyar Dam are also seen en route. Valparai receives among the highest rainfall in the region during the monsoons (around June).
The Valparai range is also habitat to the Nilgiri tahr, an endemic wild ungulate. These mountain goats inhabit the high ranges and prefer open terrain, cliffs and grass-covered hills, a habitat largely confined to altitudes from 1200 to 2600m in the southern Western Ghats. Their territory extended far and wide all along these hills in the past, but, because of hunting and large-scale habitat destruction, they now exist only in a few isolated sites like the Anaimalai Hills. The human-elephant conflict here is a delicate issue. The tea plantations are a hindrance to the movement of wildlife, particularly elephants who walk large distances to reach water bodies and feeding areas.
Endangered Wildlife of Valparai
The largest of all the Asian big cats and India’s National Animal, tigers rely primarily on sight and sound rather than smell. They typically hunt alone and stalk prey. A tiger can consume up to 88 pounds of meat at one time. On average, tigers give birth to two or three cubs every two years. If all the cubs in one litter die, a second litter may be produced within five months.
Wild tigers are under threat of extinction across their whole range. Through funding wild tiger conservation efforts, 21st Century Tiger aims to reverse this. Valparai and Anaimalai Tiger Reserve has a considerable number of Tigers. These tigers are found in Thick forests off Monomboly, Puthuthottam etc..
As few as 100 Nilgiri tahrs were left in the wild by the early 20th century. Since that time their numbers have increased somewhat; in a comprehensive study of the Nilgiri tahr population in Western Ghats, the WWF-India has put the population at 3,122. Their range extends over 400 kilometres (250 mi) from north to south. Some populations in the Anamalai Hills(Valparai), Periyar National Park, Palni Hills and other pockets in the Western Ghats south of Eravikulam, almost to India’s southern tip. A small populations of tahr numbering around 200 are known to inhabit the Boothapandi, Azhakiyapandipuram, Velimalai, Kulasekaram and Kaliyal Ranges in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu and another small herd of less than 30 animals is known to inhibit Ponmudi hills in Trivandrum district of Kerala. But this species is found in considerable number in Valparai.
Lion Tailed Macaque
One of the most xalient features of Valparai is the consistancy of LTM. These were listed in the red data book as endangered species but with great efforts of Government and NGOs the worst condtion of these species were being brought up,
Lion-tailed Macaques (LTMs) at Pudhuthottam estate near Valparai were feeding on fruits and shoots, and few feed on on Ice Cream containers, plastics, papers irresponsibly discarded by tourists. This species is in constant conflict, with some of the males even entering the main town of Valparai. Ice Cream should be the last thing this endangered species needs.
The Lion-tailed Macaque (Macaca silenus) is an endangered and endemic macaque found only in the tropical rainforests of the Western Ghats. Instead of living freely in the canopy of the rainforest, here is an individual — part of entire troupe — by the roadside, looking for food.
Threats to LTM
The major threat to this species today is habitat fragmentation, with many of these fragments being further decreased. In the past, habitat loss was due mainly to timber harvest and the creation of exotic plantations such as tea, eucalyptus and coffee.
Habitat degradation seems to the biggest threat to the conservation of lion-tailed macaques wherever they occur in Kerala (Easa et al. 1997). In private forests and plantations, change in land use is a problem for the species.
Hunting is a second major threat, especially in certain parts of its range. In one location, Coorg, with a large area of remaining wet evergreen habitat. The species is highly threatened by non-subsistence and subsistence hunting for food . In some areas, primate meat is preferred as food, and so the animals face serious hunting threats. A local trade exists for pets, and in Coorg the animals were often hunted in the past for “medicinal” uses. Certain features of the reproductive biology and ecology of this species (such as large inter-birth periods, seasonal resource availability. Female competition for mating opportunities) combine to make it intrinsically rare in the wild. The populations already reduced to low numbers are in special need of active management.
The elephant is Earth’s largest land animal, although the Asian elephant is slightly smaller than its African cousin. Asian elephants can be identified by their smaller, rounded ears. The Asian elephant’s foraging strategy in its natural habitat and in cultivation was studied in southern India during 1981–83. Though elephants consumed at least 112 plant species in the study area, about 85% of their diet consisted of only 25 species from the order Malvales and the families Leguminosae, Palmae, Cyperaceae and Gramineae. Alteration between a predominantly browse diet during the dry season with a grass diet during the early wet season was related to the seasonally changing protein content of grasses.
Crop raiding, which was sporadic during the dry season, gradually increased with more area being cultivated with the onset of rains. Raiding frequency reached a peak during October-December, with some villages being raided almost every night, when plantain is grown by most of the people. The monthly frequency of raiding was related to the seasonal movement of elephant herds and to the size of the enclave.