Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary and Hills

Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary, is the easternmost extension of the main Western Ghats. This unique extension constitutes a live bridge between the Eastern Ghats and Western Ghats with the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary located near the middle of this bridge. Thus the biota of Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary is expected to be similar to that of Western Ghats, with a significant proportion of Eastern Ghats elements as well. It is named after the Biligiri (white cliff) on which the temple of Lord Rangaswamy is located. The Sanctuary is the only large patch of forest left outside the main Western Ghats. The entire spectrum of macro-habitats is represented within the 54,000 ha of the Sanctuary. The major vegetation within the Sanctuary has been recorded (Ramesh 1989). Deciduous (moist and dry) comprises about 61%, scrub 28%, and grassland about 3.4%. Higher elevation areas are characterized by evergreen (6.5%) and high altitude sholas (0.8%) (Ramesh 1989).

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary is very rich in birds: 245 species have been reported from this IBA (Aravind et al. 2001). As fairly detailed bird list of this site is available, we find that many biome-restricted species are seen here, especially of Biome-10 (Indian Peninsula Tropical Moist Forest) and Biome-11 (Indo- Malayan Tropical Dry Zone). Thirteen out of 15 Biome-10, and 34 out of 59 Biome-11 species have been located till now. This proves that the habitat is still in a good shape. Three Near Threatened species are also seen here but this site may not be very important for their conservation, as two of them (Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala and Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus) are wetland birds, while the third, Red-headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus, is very widely distributed in the country. The Pied or White-winged Black Tit Parus nuchalis is a bird of thorn forests (Ali and Ripley 1987; Grimmett et al. 1998), while the Nilgiri Wood-Pigeon Columba elphinstonii lives in thick evergreen forests and moves around a lot in search of fruiting trees. As this site has both Tropical Dry Deciduous and Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests, this IBA provides habitats for both these globally threatened species. Another bird of conservation concern is the Yellow-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus xantholaemus (Karthikeyan et al. 1995) found in the drier parts of this site.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Biligri Rangaswamy Sanctuary is rich in large mammals such as Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, Tiger Panthera tigris, Leopard Panthera pardus, Gaur Bos frontalis, Sambar Cervus unicolor, Spotted Deer Axis axis and Four-horned Antelope Tetracerus quadricornis. Nearly 35 species of mammals have been identified.

The Sanctuary is also rich in butterflies - 150 species are identified (Aravind et al. 2001).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Disturbance to birds; Firewood collection; Poaching; Man-animal conflicts.

The Sanctuary is inhabited by indigenous people called Soligas (Aravind et al. 2001). These tribes were hunter-gatherers and used to practice shifting cultivation but now live a more settled life. Although the area has been declared a wildlife sanctuary, collection of non-timber forest produce (NTFP) continues. The Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple (BRT) Sanctuary is an important hill-forest habitat of southern Karnataka, well known for its Asian Elephant population, medicinal plant diversity, the Soliga tribals, and the ancient temple itself. Several tribal hamlets have been located in these forests for generations, and continue to stay there, possibly since the Forest Department realizes that they do no appreciable damage to wildlife or forest. Proof of their sustainable habits is coming from the preliminary results of a study being conducted, by The Energy and Environment Research Institute (TERI) and other agencies, on the impact of non-timber forest produce collection on biodiversity. Another group based inside the Sanctuary, the Vivekananda Girijana Kalyan Kendra (VGKK), has been working among the tribals for over 15 years. Apart from health and education-related activities, and some marketing of tribal produce, VGKK is also helping with resettling tribals who want to move to the Sanctuary’s periphery, and in promoting agroforestry among them. Both TERI and VGKK are now exploring the possibilities of tribal entrepreneurship based on the area’s biological resources, including local processing of medicinal plants (the ingredients of the famous ayurvedic medicine Triphaladichurna come from these forests), honey, and other nontimber forest produce. The Ashoka Trust for Research on Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) is involved in mapping and conservation of biodiversity of BRT Sanctuary. Accidental as well as intentional electrocution of elephants is a big problem. Encroachment of traditional migratory corridors, together with the degradation of the habitat, have forced the elephants to raid crop fields, resulting in backlash by farmers.

Key contributors: N. A. Aravind and other workshop participants.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary and Hills. Downloaded from on 26/05/2022.