Kemmangundi and Bababudan Hills

Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
The Bababudan Hills are a horse-shoe shaped range of high ridges. An eastern offshoot of the Western Ghats, the hills have a valley in the centre of the horse-shoe facing northwest, known as the Jagara Valley (600 m). The hills have an average height of 1,400 m, reaching a maximum of 1,925 m at Mulaianagiri, the highest peak in Karnataka. The ridges are narrow and steep, with cliffs cascading towards the outer end of the horse-shoe, interrupted by hill slopes on the inner side. The hills are covered with grassland on the slopes and luxuriant sholas (Southern Wet Temperate Montane Evergreen Forests) in the ravines and folds between the hills. Kemmangundi is a small, pleasant hill station established on the northern end of the hill range in 1932 by the Maharaja of Mysore, Krishnaraj Wodeyar IV. At 1,434 m, it is located besides an abandoned open-cast iron mine. Kemmangundi in Kannada translates as ‘red soil pit’ (Kemmannu = red soil, gundi = pit), referring to the soil colour in the mining pit as well as the surroundings. Mining for iron ore continues on a small scale on nearby hillsides. Extensive, dense sholas surround the place. Kemmangundi served as a base camp for Sálim Ali in 1940, when he visited the Bababudan Hills as part of his survey of the birds of the erstwhile princely Mysore (Ali 1942-43). The vegetation is southern montane wet temperate forest, interspersed with southern montane wet tropical grasslands. The vegetation at Kemmangundi is degraded due to anthropogenic influences like the extension of the hill station, experimental potato farming, and laying of a formal garden, but the sholas are somewhat less disturbed. The lower slopes have eucalyptus and coffee plantations (Shyamal 1993). The sholas along the Bababudangiri hill range are highly degraded and disturbed, many being planted over by Eucalyptus, and in some areas by Pinus sp.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Sálim Ali collected or recorded 69 species of birds in early 1940 (Ali 1942-43). Vijay Ramachandran, Job K. Joseph and J. Praveen (in litt. 2003) recorded 59 species in a two-day survey of this area. The jaswi Shivanand (pers. comm. 2002) recorded 98 species on a one-week survey in late May 2002. In all, 125 species of birds have been recorded from the area, including two Critically Endangered vultures, and 13 of the 16 restricted range species of the Western Ghats Endemic Bird Area. Only those species that are restricted to the southern Western Ghats (Nilgiri Pipit Anthus nilghiriensis, Nilgiri Laughingthrush Garrulax cachinnans, and Black-and-Orange Flycatcher Ficedula nigrorufa) are not found here, otherwise all the other restricted range species are present, which shows that the habitat is largely intact. The IBA lies in Biome-10 (Indian Peninsula Tropical Moist Forest). Altogether, 15 Indian species have been identified in this biome (BirdLife International, undated), of which 12 species are found in this IBA.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: No information.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Iron-ore mining; Poaching; Firewood collection; Tourism pressure, littering.

Iron-ore mining has reduced the shola forest cover and is proving to be a major reason for the siltation of streams, and causing landslides. Encroachment of forests by coffee estates are a major concern. A proposal to expand and privatise the hill station will have an adverse impact on the area, and should be stopped.

Key contributors: Thejaswi Shivanand and J. Praveen.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Kemmangundi and Bababudan Hills. Downloaded from on 23/05/2022.