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Location India, Tamil Nadu
Central coordinates 77o 30.00' East  8o 5.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i
Area 430 ha
Altitude 5 - 200m
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description Suchindram, Theroor and Vembanoor wetlands that form this IBA lie in the Kanyakumari district, at the southernmost tip of peninsular India. The history of these natural tanks is age old, but it is known that kings contributed a great deal to the irrigation facilities. Copper plate inscriptions from the 9th century mention Pasumkulam, Venchikulam, Nedumarthukulam, Perumkulam, Elemchikulam and Konadunkulam. The Pandyan king Veeranarayana was known to have had some of the tanks constructed. Veeranarayana Mangalam is named after King Veeranarayana, who built the Therrakal canal to take water from River Pazhayar to the tanks Thathiarkulam, Puthukiramamkulam and Theroorkulam. The famous Suchindram tank was built about 1,000 years ago. It is fed from the Kumari Dam constructed across Pazhayar (also called Palayar) below Sabari Dam. The Sabari and Kumari Dams may be more than 1000 years old. The River Pazhayar collects the entire drainage of the valley and irrigates a substantial part of Nanchilwadu. The main Pazhayar stream passes through Bhuthapandi-kottar, Thazhakudi and Suchindram tanks and enters the Manakudi estuary. These tanks were located towards Tiruneveli district on the northeast of the Gulf of Mannar. On the south and southwest, the IBA is bounded by Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. Kanyakumari district receives rainfall from both the southwest and the northeast monsoons. The southwest monsoon starts from June and ends in September, while the northeast monsoon extends from October to the middle of December.

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: About 250 species of birds have been recorded in the district, of which 53 species are migratory, twelve are endemic and four species threatened (Balachandran 1998). Birds such as Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis, Darter Anhinga melanogaster, Northern Pintail Anas acuta, Common Teal Anas crecca, Spotbill Duck Anas platyrhynchos, Garganey Anas querquedula and Common Coot Fulica atra congregate in these tanks, sometimes in thousands. R. B. Grubh (pers. comm. 2003) has counted huge flocks of Garganey, just before their return migration in March. One flock consisted of nearly 30,000 individuals. According to Wetlands International’s (2002) recent estimates, the total nonbreeding population of this species in South Asia is about 2,50,000. Hence, the 1% population threshold is 2,500. Therefore, these wetlands host about 12% of the total population. This site, therefore, qualifies A4i criteria. The Spot-billed Pelicans are seen in the tanks during breeding season in the Koonthakulam Bird Sanctuary. These wetlands are one of the important foraging grounds for this threatened species (Manakadan and Kannan 2001-2002).

OTHER KEY FAUNA: As these wetlands are surrounded by human habitations and agricultural fields, there are no wild large mammal. Various species of commercial fish are found. Tilapia has been introduced that has destroyed small native fish.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Garganey Spatula querquedula 2004  present  A4i  Least Concern 
Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis resident  2004  present  A1  Near Threatened 

IBA Monitoring

2003 high not assessed not assessed
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Agriculture and aquaculture annual & perennial non-timber crops - small-holder farming happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Biological resource use hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - intentional use (species being assessed is the target) happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - unspecified species happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Pollution agricultural & forestry effluents - soil erosion, sedimentation happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland)   -
Coastline   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
Notes: Agriculture
fisheries/aquaculture -
Notes: Fishing
water management -
Notes: Water management

Acknowledgements Key contributors: V. Kannan, Robert Grubh and Shailaja Grubh.


Balachandran, S. (1998) Migratory, Threatened and Rare birds of Kanyakumari District. Proc. Seminar on endangered fauna of Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu (Ed.: R. S. Lal Mohan, 38-39).

Manakadan, R. and Kannan, V. (2001-2002) A study of Spot-billed Pelicans Pelecanus philippensis with special reference to its conservation. Annual Report, Bombay Natural History Society.

Grubh, R. and Grubh, S. (1989) Suchindram Kulam: A Waterbird Sanctuary for Kumari Distict. Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai.

Wetlands International (2002) Waterbirds Population Estimates: Third Edition. Wetlands International Global Series No. 12. Wageningen, the Netherlands.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Suchindram Therur, Vembanoor. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016

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