Mudumalai National Park

Year of compilation: 2004

Site description (baseline)
Mudumalai National Park is located in the Nilgiri district of Tamil Nadu, in the Western Ghats. It is mainly known for its larger mammals but also harbours a rich avian diversity. The Sanctuary forms 14% of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, which is the first biosphere reserve of India. It is contiguous with Bandipur National Park (87,400 ha), Wynaad Sanctuary (34,400 ha) and Sigur and Singara Reserve Forests (Rodgers and Panwar 1988). The terrain of this IBA is extremely varied, with hills, valleys, ravines, floodplains, watercourses and swamps. Many streams drain into the area, the principal one being Moyar, the most important source of water for the Sanctuary, since most other streams dry up in early June. Most of the serious research efforts in this IBA have so far been focused on larger mammals, their predator-prey dynamics, and elephant studies. However, birds as a group have been largely ignored except by Gokula (1998). Mudumalai is endowed with a diversity of habitats, which support a rich variety of flora and fauna. There are three main types of forest: Tropical Moist Deciduous, Tropical Dry Deciduous and Southern Tropical Thorn. In certain places, mixed vegetation types are also present. Tropical Moist Deciduous Forest occurs in the western Benne Block, where rainfall is higher than in the other blocks. Tropical Dry Deciduous Forest is confined to the eastern side, but merges into Thorn Forest, where rainfall is lowest. Southern Tropical Thorn forest, also known as scrub jungle, occurs in parts of Avarihalla, Moyar and Bokkapuram blocks, and comprises xerophytic species (Jain and Sastry 1983). There are Teak plantations Tectona grandis largely in Benne Block, and a Blue gum plantation Eucalyptus globulus in the Masinagudi area. Bamboo Bambusa sp. have been planted mainly for supply to rayon mills in Kerala.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: A total of 266 bird species has been recorded (Gokula 1998). Of the total, 213 are residents, 49 migrants, three local migrants, and one with unknown status. Most of the species are common and found in many other areas also, but endemics such as the Malabar Trogon Harpactes fasciatus and Malabar Grey Hornbill Ocyceros griseus are present. Gokula and Vijayan (1996) have listed the globally threatened Broad-tailed Grass-Warbler Schoenicola platyura as resident, without giving more details. Another threatened species is TN-17 the Nilgiri Wood-Pigeon Columba elphinstonii, recorded as rare in Bennae area, between May 1994 and August 1995. In the drier parts of this site, two globally Vulnerable species have been recorded: Yellow-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus xantholaemus and Pied Tit Parus nuchalis. The former was seen in Mavinahalla in 1996 (BirdLife International 2001), while the later was reported first by Ali and Whistler (1942-43) from Sathyamangala area, close to Mudumalai, and then by K. D. Bishop (BirdLife International 2001) from the northeastern edge of Masinagudi in March 1997. Owing to its altitudinal, precipitation and habitat variations, Mudumalai has two biomes: Biome-10 (Indian Peninsula Tropical Moist Forest) and Biome-11 (Indo-Malayan Tropical Dry Zone). BirdLife International (undated) has listed 15 species in Biome-10, of which 11 have been recorded in this IBA. Similarly, 59 species are representative of Biome-11, and in Mudumalai, 27 are recorded. There are not many IBAs where such a high percentage of biome bird species are found. The presence of so many biome species proves that the habitat is still relatively pristine, at least as far as the bird are concerned.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Mudumalai is famous for its large herds of Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, Gaur Bos frontalis and Chital Axis axis. Tiger Panthera tigris is widespread, whereas Leopard P. pardus is most often seen in the Kargudi area. Other carnivores include Wild Dog Cuon alpinus, commonly seen in Masinagudi and Theppakkadu Blocks, Striped Hyena Hyaena hyaena, Golden Jackal Canis aureus and Sloth Bear Melursus ursinus. The Asian Elephant population varies 300-400 (Ali et al. 1985). Most of the ungulates, primates and small carnivores of the regions are seen in this site.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Plantations; Hydro-electric Projects; Grazing pressure; Forest fires; Poaching.

The Nilgiris have undergone drastic changes in landscape, with the replacement of forests and grasslands by monoculture plantations and agriculture. Other developmental processes such as construction of dams, reservoirs, canals and tunnels for hydroelectric projects, have impacted the ecology of this area (Prabhakar and Gadgil 1994). Human settlements, with migrants brought in to support the above-mentioned activities, have built up pressure on the forest to meet their livelihood needs. The impact, either direct or indirect, of anthropogenic pressure on the biota, especially birds, has not been assessed in this region. In 1985, there were 12 villages within the Sanctuary, occupying a total of 260 ha of patta land, and surrounded by Moist Deciduous and Semi-evergreen Forest (Ali et al. 1985). Much of the Sanctuary is exploited for forest produce. There are 10,000-20,000 cattle in Masinagudi and Moyar areas (Ali et al. 1985). Some areas, especially Masinagudi and Moyar, are highly degraded by human impacts. Cattle also disturb elephants, compete with wildlife for pasture, and introduce diseases such as rinderpest which reduced the Gaur population in 1968 (Nair et al. 1978; Ali et al. 1985). Timber extraction includes both selective and clear felling, and the latter damages the forest. Steps needs be taken to reduce overgrazing and the number of cattle in the Sanctuary, and to voluntarily resettle residents. Fires in the Dry Deciduous Forest also considerably threaten the avifauna every year. Accumulation of dead leaves in Teak plantations makes the fire sweep through large tracts, affecting many understorey birds.

Key contributors: V. Gokula, Lalitha Vijayan and Ashfaq Ahmed Zarri.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Mudumalai National Park. Downloaded from on 03/06/2023.