Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

Country/territory: India

IBA criteria met: A1, A2 (2004)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 9,044 ha

Bombay Natural History Society
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
2003 not assessed medium not assessed
For more information about IBA monitoring, please click here

Site description (2004 baseline)
Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary comprises an area of 9,044 ha along the rain shadow region of the Western Ghats. This area was formerly known as Chinnar Reserve Forest and was a part of Marayoor Range of Munnar Forest Division. Considering its ecological, faunal, floral and geomorphological significance, it was declared as the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary in 1984. Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary has a special status compared to other sanctuaries in Kerala due to the presence of thorn scrub jungle. Being in a rain shadow area, rainfall in some areas is about 500 mm. The importance of Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is enhanced by its proximity to Eravikulam National Park (IBA) in the west and Annamalai Wildlife Sanctuary (IBA) in north and east. Thus it serves as a corridor for the movement and dispersal of animals. Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the two regions in Kerala on the leeward side of the Western Ghats (Sasidharan, undated). Because of these climatic and geographic characteristics, the flora resembles that of Deccan region. The Chinnar is perhaps the driest sanctuary of Kerala, with notable absence of semi-evergreen and evergreen forests. The scrub and dry vegetation is highly prone to fire. The vegetation of the Sanctuary can be described as Southern Tropical Thorn Forest, Dry Deciduous Forest, Moist Deciduous Forest, Riparian Forest, hill shola forest and grassland (Sasidharan, undated). The dominant plant species of the Sanctuary are represented by Chloroxylum swietenia, Anogeissus latifolia, Strychnos potatoram and Ixora arborea (Chandrashekara et al. 2002).

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Despite its unique status for Kerala state for being dry where all other regions are quite wet, not much work has been conducted on the avifauna of this Sanctuary. The earlier management plan listed only 10 bird species! Nameer and George (1991) during short stay compiled a list of 116 birds but added “it should not be taken as the last word on the avifauna of this bird rich region.” As this site does not have typical forest cover of the Western Ghats, not many of the endemic birds of the Western Ghats (16 in total) were recorded here. Interestingly, the globally threatened Yellow-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus xantholaemus, a bird endemic to the boulder-strewn scrub forests of peninsular India (Ali and Ripley 1987, Grimmet et al. 1998) is found here (P. O. Nameer 1995). This is the only site in Kerala where this species is found. Also, the Near threatened Nigiri Pipit Anthus nilghiriensis is seen here. As the site geographically lies in the Western Ghats, it comes under Biome-10 (Indian Peninsula Tropical Moist Forest), according to the classification of BirdLife International (undated). However, as it does not have thick forest cover, most of the birds listed in Biome-10 are not found here. Nevertheless, the following are seen: Small Green-billed Malkoha Phaenicophaeus viridirostris, Whitecheeked Barbet Megalaima viridis and Crimson-throated Barbet Megalaima rubricapilla (Nameer and Geroge, 1991). Sixteen species of Biome-11 (Indo-Malayan Tropical Dry Zone) are seen in this IBA.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, along with Srivalliputtur Grizzled Giant Squirrel Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu, are two important sites of the Grizzled Giant Squirrel Ratufa macroura (Ramachandran 1993). A 16 km public road connecting Munnar and Udumelpettu passes more or less through the middle of the Sanctuary from Karimutty to Chinnar. Forest contiguity is broken in many places due to roads and 220 KV power lines, thus disrupting the movement of the endangered Grizzled Giant Squirrel.

Another interesting animal is the Starred Tortoise Geochelone elegans, an animal of the dry scrubland. It is not rare, although listed as Schedule I in the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, its presence in Chinnar is noteworthy as it is not found in other parts of Kerala.

Other important mammals found in the Sanctuary are Tiger Panthera tigris, Leopard Panthera pardus, Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, Gaur Bos gaurus, Sambar Cervus unicolor, Chital Axis axis, Indian Giant Squirrel Ratufa indica, Lion-tailed Macaque Macaca silenus, and Bonnet Macaque Macaca radiata, Wild Dog Cuon alpinus, Wild Boar Sus scrofa, Indian Porcupine Hystrix indica and Blacknaped Hare Lepus nigricollis.

Key contributor: P. O. Nameer.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 26/09/2023.