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Location India, Tamil Nadu
Central coordinates 76o 28.18' East  11o 12.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A2
Area 7,846 ha
Altitude 0
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society



Site description Mukurthi National Park lies at the southwestern end of the Nilgiri Hills, Tamil Nadu. It encompasses an area of 7,846 ha. This IBA was declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1980, and later a National Park in 1990, mainly for the protection of the endangered Nilgiri Tahr Hemitragus hylocrius. Mukurthi is perhaps the only area of the Nilgiris that has not been badly affected by conversion to exotic monoculture plantations. It is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, which was the first to be declared among the 18 biosphere reserves present in India. Today it forms a key area for the conservation of grassland habitat in the Nilgiris Hills. The terrain is generally undulating, mostly grassland, and has patches of Montane Evergreen Forest (shola), confined to the folds and depressions of the Western Ghats. There are several streams, many of which drain in to the Bhavani River. There are numerous peaks inside the National Park, the highest being Kolaribetta (2,630m), together with Mukurthi Peak (2,556m) and Nilgiri Peak (2,477m. Toward the southwest of Mukurthi lies the famous Silent Valley, and to its west the land falls steeply to nearly 2,000 m to the Amarabalam Forests. Unlike the rest of the Nilgiris district, the area under monoculture plantations in Mukurthi is comparatively less, and comprises mainly of Acacia mearnsii, Eucalyptus globulus and Pinus patula. The vegetation of this site can be classified into three major types, namely Southern Montane Wet Temperate Forest (shola) as classified by Champion and Seth (1968), Grassland and Plantation. Pristine patches of shola can be seen all throughout Mukurthi National Park, generally at the heads of streams in the folds of converging slopes. These forests support an amazing variety of flora and fauna. This IBA site is among the richest regions of plant biodiversity, with many endemic orchids and other plant groups. Grasslands in Mukurthi are common and form a mosaic with shola. They are a mixture of Chrysopogon, Ischaemum, Dicanthium, Andropogon, Eragrostis and Panicum species. The ecological status of these grasslands has been a subject of debate.

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: Mukurthi is an important area for the conservation of regional biodiversity of this region, including many avian species of special conservation interest notably the Endangered Nilgiri Laughingthrush Garrulax cachinnans. It also supports many Vulnerable and Restricted Range species. Around 120 bird species have been recorded from Mukurthi National Park and adjoining forests (Zarri et al. 2002). Of these, the Nilgiri Laughingthrush, Nilgiri Wood-Pigeon Columba elphinstonii and White-bellied Shortwing Brachypteryx major are globally threatened. The grasslands in Mukurthi are vital for the conservation of restricted range species such as the Nilgiri Pipit Anthus nilghiriensis and wintering raptors such as Oriental Honey- Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus, White-eyed Buzzard Butastur teesa, Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus, Common Buzzard Buteo buteo, Crested Serpent-Eagle Spilornis cheela and Short-toed Snake Eagle Circaetus gallicus. Mukurthi NP lies in the Western Ghats Endemic Bird Area (EBA), where Stattersfield et al. (1998) have listed 16 restricted range species. Seven of them are found in this IBA. All the five restricted range species associated with Wet Temperate sholas and Subtropical Broadleaf Hill Forest (Stattersfield et al. 1998) are found, which proves that some shola habitat is still intact despite earlier plantation of exotic species. This IBA is located in Biome-10 (Indian Peninsula Tropical Moist Forests: BirdLife International, undated). Fifteen species represent this biome. Only three species, White-cheeked Barbet Pomatorhinus horsfieldii, Indian Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus horsfieldii and Malabar Whistling-Thrush Myiophonus horsfieldii have been located from this site. The Indian Scimitar Babbler is much widely distributed so it may not be the best example of this biome. The forests and grasslands of Mukurthi are important wintering areas for many birds that are listed in other biomes such as Tickell’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus affinis, Large-billed Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus magnirostris, Brown-breasted Flycatcher Muscicapa muttui, Blue-headed Rock-Thrush Monticola cinclorhynchus and Indian Blue Robin Luscinia brunnea. Interestingly, six species listed in Biome-11 (Indo-Malayan Tropical Dry Zone) by BirdLife International (undated) have been found here. All the six are common and widely distributed and thus of not much conservation concern. This excellent National Park fits three IBA criteria: A1-it has the globally threatened and highly endemic Nilgiri Laughingthrush; A2- it has seven restricted range species and falls in the Western Ghats (Endemic Bird Area 123); and, A3 – it has biome-restricted species.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Beside birds, the grassland habitat in this IBA is home to a wide variety of orchids, balsam and other associated herbs. Also reported are endangered and endemic species of tree frogs, pit vipers and mammals such as the Nilgiri Marten Martes gwatkinsi.

The flagship mammal species of this Park is the Nilgiri Tahr that once inhabited the slopes and cliffs in huge herds. Today, this species is rarely seen, except for one or two herds in the Western Catchment Area.

Other fauna of the site include Nilgiri Langur Trachypithecus johni, often seen in large troops or heard hooting. Sightings of Tiger Panthera tigris and Leopard P. pardus are frequent. These large predators have adapted very well to hunting across vast stretches of grassy hills. Packs of Wild Dog Cuon alpinus, sometimes up to 25, are commonly seen. Sighting of Nilgiri Marten Martes gwatkinsi is rare, perhaps because of its elusive nature. Sambar Cervus unicolor and Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak are quite common, and form the main prey for large cats. The Asian Elephant Elephas maximus can be seen crossing the Park in small herds during the monsoon on their annual migration to the northern plains.

A host of smaller mammals including Jungle Cat Felis chaus, Small Indian Civet Viverricula indica, Brown Palm Civet Paradoxurus jerdoni, Stripe-necked Mongoose Herpestes vitticollis, Common Mongoose Herpestes edwardsi, Golden Jackal Canis aureus, and Indian Wild Boar Sus scrofa are reported (Zarri et al. 2002).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Nilgiri Woodpigeon Columba elphinstonii resident  2004  present  A1, A2  Vulnerable 
Black-chinned Laughingthrush Strophocincla cachinnans resident  2004  present  A1, A2  Endangered 
Nilgiri Blue Robin Myiomela major resident  2004  present  A1, A2  Endangered 
Black-and-rufous Flycatcher Ficedula nigrorufa resident  2004  present  A2  Near Threatened 
Nilgiri Flycatcher Eumyias albicaudatus resident  2004  present  A2  Near Threatened 
Crimson-backed Sunbird Nectarinia minima 2004  present  A2  Least Concern 
Nilgiri Pipit Anthus nilghiriensis resident  2004  present  A2  Vulnerable 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Mukurthi National Park 7,846 is identical to site 7,846  
Western Ghats World Heritage Site 795,315 protected area contains site 7,846  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest   -
Grassland   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research -
Notes: Nature Conservation

Acknowledgements Key contributors: Ashfaq Ahmed Zarri and Asad R. Rahmani.

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.

Champion, H. G. and Seth, S. K. (1968) A revised survey of the forest types of India. Govt. of India Press, Nasik.

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.

Zarri, A. A., Rahmani, A. R., and Senthilmurugan, S. (2002) Ecology of Shola and Alpine Grasslands. Annual report. 2 Part I. Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mukurthi National Park (Nilgiris). Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/12/2014

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