Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

Country/territory: India

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

Area: 81,800 ha

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

Site description (2004 baseline)
Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR), created in 1988- 89, is situated in the southern end of the Western Ghats in the Ashambu Hills of Agasthyamalai region of Tamil Nadu. The present boundaries of the Reserve are surrounded on all sides by villages. Agasthyamalai (1,681 m), which falls within the core zone of the Tiger Reserve, is the third highest peak in south India. A section of the hills in the core of the Reserve is considered one of the five major centres of plant diversity and endemism in India. The IBA site receives rain for 8 months in a year. The forests of the Reserve form the catchment area of 14 rivers and streams, which form the irrigation network and provide drinking water for the people of Tirunelveli, Tuticorin and part of Kanyakumari district. Seven major dams - Karayar, Lower Dam, Servalar, Manimuthar, Ramanadi, Kadnanadi and Kodaiyar exist on these rivers. Kalakad Mundanthurai comprises of 66,500 ha reserved forest. Because of the occurrence of numerous streams and rivers, the Reserve is called a ‘River Sanctuary’ (Johnsingh 2001). The Reserve is the southernmost home to some of the charismatic and endangered mammals such as the Nilgir Tahr Hermitragus hylocrius and the Tiger Panthera tigris. The KMTR, sprawling across diverse terrain, is ecologically rich. It has vegetation types ranging from Thorn Scrub to Montane (Wet) Evergreen Forests, all within an altitudinal range from sea level to 1,866 m above sea level (Johnsingh 2001).

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Kalakad-Mundanthurai is one of the most important sites for the Western Ghats endemics, due to good forest cover in most parts of this Tiger Reserve. Nearly 160 birds, representing 93 genera and 40 families, have been listed. Of these, 77 are residents, 41 winter visitors, 30 altitudinal migrants and two summer visitors (Joshua and Johnsingh 1988). However, Johnsingh (2001) has mentioned that Katti et al. (unpublished) identified 273 species of birds in and around KMTR. The globally threatened White-bellied Shortwing Brachypteryx major is found in high elevation rainforests, particularly in Neterikal area. The Oriental Bay Owl Phodilus badius, an uncommon species has been recorded from Sengaltheri (Johnsingh 2001). Kodayar area could support a good population of Broad-tailed Grass-Warbler or Grassbird Schoenicola platyura. The site lies in the Western Ghats Endemic Bird Area (EBA), where Stattersfield et al. (1998) have listed 16 restricted range species. Except for the Nilgiri Laughingthrush Garrulax cachinnans, which is confined to the Nilgiris (Ali and Ripley 1987, Grimmett et al. 1998), all the remaining 15 restricted range species of this EBA are found here. This is one of the few sites in the Western Ghats where so many restricted range species are found. This also reflects the diversity and quality of habitats available in this IBA. This site also has eight Near Threatened species. Given the extensive habitats, the population of Great Pied Hornbill Buceros bicornis and Greater Grey-headed Fish-eagle Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus could be significant, although both were considered rare by Joshua and Johnsingh (1988).

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Kalakad-Mundanthurai is one of the best tiger reserves of India (Jain, 2001). Besides Tiger Panthera tigris, it has Leopard P. pardus as the major predator, and ungulates such as Sambar Cervus unicolor, Spotted deer Axis axis, Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak and Mouse Deer Moschiola meminna. Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, Gaur Bos frontalis, Nilgiri Langur Trachypithecus johni, Bonnet Macaque Macaca radiata, Liontailed Macaque M. silenus, Slender Loris Loris tardigradus, Sloth Bear Melursus ursinus, Indian Giant Squirrel Ratufa indica, are also reported from this IBA. Rusty-spotted Cat Prionailurus rubiginosus and Nilgiri Martin Martes gwatkinsi are two uncommon species reported from this area (Jain, 2001). Among the reptiles, King Cobra Ophiophagus hannah, Indian Rock Python Python molurus, Monitor Lizard Varanus bengalensis and Draco or Gliding Lizard Draco dussumieri are some of the interesting species found in this IBA.

The Western Ghats EBA has about 120 species of amphibians, of which 90 are restricted to rainforests (Johnsingh 2001). Thirtytwo species have been recorded from this site, of which 25 are endemic of the Western Ghats. The Black Narrow-mouth Frog Melanobatrachus indicus was rediscovered after 100 years in Kakachi (Vasudevan 1997). Dasia halianus, an arboreal skink, reported earlier only from Sri Lanka, was discovered by Johnsingh and Joshua (1989) from the threatened gallery forest of River Tambiraparani.

This site has rich reptilian diversity, and a total of 81 species has been identified. Some species of biological and ecological importance include Calotes andamanensis, Cochin Forest Cane Turtle Geoemyda silvatica, Anaimalai Gecko Hemidactylus anamallensis and Indian Kangaroo Lizard Otocryptis beddomii (Johnsingh, 2001).

KMTR is also famous for many rare and endemic hill stream fish of the Western Ghats. Recently, Arunachalam and Johnson (2002) have described a new species of Puntius from the streams of River Tamiraparani, named Puntius kannikattiensis.

Key contributors: Justus Joshua and A .J. T. Johnsingh.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. Downloaded from on 27/09/2023.