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Location India, Kerala
Central coordinates 77o 14.87' East  9o 26.72' North
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 77,700 ha
Altitude 150 - 2,019m
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society



Site description The Periyar Tiger Reserve is one of the most famous Tiger Reserves of India. The Reserve has an area of 77,700 ha, including Periyar Lake, (area 2600 ha). The boundaries are Madurai and Ramanadhapuram districts in the east, Kottayam district in the west and Pathanamthitta district in the south. It was one of the first Project Tiger areas of the country. This IBA lies among rolling hills and forested valleys that stretch across a section of the Western Ghats. It falls more or less steeply to populated lowlands on all sides, except along the northwest boundary flanking the more cultivated parts of the Cardamom Hills, and in the northeast and southeast corners where narrow corridors link with outlying hill areas, the High Wavy and Panthalam ranges, respectively. The northern and eastern boundary of the Park follows the Kerala/Tamil Nadu border along the crest line for about 90 km. The lowest elevation is 150 m along the Pambiyar river in the Kerala foothills, but this is not typical as most of the Reserve lie between 750 to 1,500 m. The Periyar lake sprawls through the uneven terrain with many bays, islands and long creeks winding up side valleys. Most of the land was not cleared before being flooded, and the bare, gaunt skeletons of long-dead forest hardwood still litter the water. The maximum depth is 42 m and the shoreline is generally steep. The vegetation of the Sanctuary is mainly composed of Tropical Evergreen Forest and Semi-evergreen Forest. In the central part of the Sanctuary, Moist Deciduous Forest and grasslands predominate. Reed brakes are primarily located in evergreen and semi-evergreen forests (Chandrasekhran 1973). There is Eucalyptus plantation in the buffer zone in the west. Among the 1,272 plant species that are considered endemic to the southern Western Ghats, 515 species were collected from Periyar (Sasidharan 1998). A new species of orchid, Habenaria periyarensis has been described from here. This shows the importance of Periyar Tiger Reserve as a biodiversity hotspot.

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: This IBA is one of the most visited places in south India. Birdwatchers come to see the Western Ghats endemics and forest birds. Despite the presence of a large artificial lake, aquatic bird life is rather poor overall, apparently due to the deep waters of the lake. So far, 315 species of birds have been identified (Robertson and Jackson 1992). Sixteen species of birds are considered as endemic in the Western Ghats. BirdLife International (undated) calls them restricted range species, i.e. they have distributional range less than 50,000 sq. km. According to Stattersfield et al. (1998), this area lies in the Western Ghats Endemic Bird Area (EBA). Fourteen out of 16 restricted range species are noted from this site. This is not only because a large number of birdwatchers visit this are but mostly due to the good natural habitat. BirdLife International (undated) has classified species based on biome assemblages. This site lies in Biome-10 (Indian Peninsula Tropical Moist Forest) where 15 species have been found that represent this biome. Eleven of the 15 Biome-10 species are noted from this site, which is also a sort of record. In very few sites, we were able to record so many species. Periyar is also an important wintering site for many long distance migrants such as Tickell’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus affinis, Large-billed Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus magnirostris, Largecrowned Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus occipitalis, Rufous-tailed Flycatcher Muscicapa ruficauda, Pied Thrush Zoothera wardii and others. Periyar is one of the few sites where the occurrence of the Wood Snipe Gallinago nemoricola has been confirmed. In India, the Wood Snipe breeds in the Himalaya and winters in southern India. Its population has drastically declined, apparently due to habitat loss in the breeding areas, and hunting in wintering areas (BirdLife International 2001).

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Periyar is renowned for its herds of wild Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, seen on the edge of Periyar Lake. Tiger Panthera tigris is also not uncommon. Periyar has perhaps the best representative forests where most of the southern Western Ghats endemic and rare mammal species are found, such as the Lion-tailed Macaque Macaca silenus, the Nilgiri Langur Trachypithecus johni and the Travancore Flying Squirrel Petinomys fuscocapillus (Ramachandran et al. 1986). Wild Dogs Cuon alpinus, uncommon in other forests, are regularly seen in Periyar, chiefly around the lake where their main prey such as Sambar Cervus unicolor, Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak, Mouse Deer Moschiola meminna and Wild Boar Sus scrofa concentrate. Indian Giant Squirrel Ratufa indica and Gaur Bos gaurus are very common in this Sanctuary.

Zacharias et al. (1996) noted 35 species of fish, including 13 endemic to the southern Western Ghats. Two new species, namely Lepidopygopsis typhus (Schizothoracinae) and Crossocheilus periyarensis (Cypriniidae) were recorded from Periyar Lake, while Echathalakanda (Barbus) ophiocephalus (Cypriniidae) was rediscovered from Periyar river. This was believed to be extinct.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Indian Vulture Gyps indicus non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Wood Snipe Gallinago nemoricola winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Nilgiri Woodpigeon Columba elphinstonii resident  2004  present  A1, A2, A3  Vulnerable 
Malabar Parakeet Psittacula columboides 2004  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Malabar Grey Hornbill Ocyceros griseus 2004  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
White-bellied Treepie Dendrocitta leucogastra 2004  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Grey-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus priocephalus 2004  present  A2, A3  Near Threatened 
Broad-tailed Grassbird Schoenicola platyurus resident  2004  present  A1, A2  Vulnerable 
Rufous Babbler Turdoides subrufa 2004  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Wynaad Laughingthrush Garrulax delesserti 2004  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
White-bellied Blue Robin Myiomela albiventris resident  2004  present  A1, A2, A3  Endangered 
Black-and-rufous Flycatcher Ficedula nigrorufa resident  2004  present  A2, A3  Near Threatened 
Nilgiri Flycatcher Eumyias albicaudatus resident  2004  present  A2, A3  Near Threatened 
White-bellied Blue-flycatcher Cyornis pallipes 2004  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Crimson-backed Sunbird Nectarinia minima 2004  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Nilgiri Pipit Anthus nilghiriensis resident  2004  present  A2, A3  Vulnerable 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Periyar National Park 35,000 protected area contained by site 35,000  
Periyar Sanctuary 77,700 is identical to site 77,700  
Western Ghats World Heritage Site 795,315 protected area overlaps with site 0  

Local conservation groups The local conservation group below is working to support conservation at this IBA.

Name Year formed
Periyar Foundation 0

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest   -
Grassland   -
Wetlands (inland)   -
Artificial - aquatic   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research -
Notes: Nature conservation and research
tourism/recreation -
Notes: Tourism

Acknowledgements Key contributor: The IBA team.

References 

BirdLife International (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: The BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

BirdLife International (undated) Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Asia: Project briefing book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K., unpublished.

Chandrasekhran, C. (1973) Forest resources of Kerala - a quantitive assessment. Kerala Forest Department, Trivandrum.

Ramachandran, K. K., Vijayakumaran Nair, P. and Easa, P. S. (1986) Ecology of larger mammals of Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 83: 505-524.

Robertson, A. and Jackson, M. C. A. (1992) Birds of Periyar, an aid to birdwatching in Periyar, Kerala, S. India. Tourism and Wildlife Society of India.

Sasidharan, N. (1998) Studies on the flora of Periyar Tiger Reserve. KFRI Research Report No. Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi.

Stattersfield, A. J., Crosby, M. J., Long, A. J. and Wege, D. C. (1998) Endemic Bird Areas of the World: Priorities for Biodiversity Conservation. BirdLife Conservation Series No. 7. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Zacharias, V. J., Bhardwaj, A. K. and Jacob, P. C. (1996) Fish fauna of Periyar Tiger Reserve. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 93(1): 39-43.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/12/2014

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