Year of compilation: 2004
AVIFAUNA: This IBA is one of the most visited places in south India. Birdwatchers come to see the Western Ghats endemics and forest birds. Despite the presence of a large artificial lake, aquatic bird life is rather poor overall, apparently due to the deep waters of the lake. So far, 315 species of birds have been identified (Robertson and Jackson 1992). Sixteen species of birds are considered as endemic in the Western Ghats. BirdLife International (undated) calls them restricted range species, i.e. they have distributional range less than 50,000 sq. km. According to Stattersfield et al. (1998), this area lies in the Western Ghats Endemic Bird Area (EBA). Fourteen out of 16 restricted range species are noted from this site. This is not only because a large number of birdwatchers visit this are but mostly due to the good natural habitat. BirdLife International (undated) has classified species based on biome assemblages. This site lies in Biome-10 (Indian Peninsula Tropical Moist Forest) where 15 species have been found that represent this biome. Eleven of the 15 Biome-10 species are noted from this site, which is also a sort of record. In very few sites, we were able to record so many species. Periyar is also an important wintering site for many long distance migrants such as Tickell’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus affinis, Large-billed Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus magnirostris, Largecrowned Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus occipitalis, Rufous-tailed Flycatcher Muscicapa ruficauda, Pied Thrush Zoothera wardii and others. Periyar is one of the few sites where the occurrence of the Wood Snipe Gallinago nemoricola has been confirmed. In India, the Wood Snipe breeds in the Himalaya and winters in southern India. Its population has drastically declined, apparently due to habitat loss in the breeding areas, and hunting in wintering areas (BirdLife International 2001).
OTHER KEY FAUNA: Periyar is renowned for its herds of wild Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, seen on the edge of Periyar Lake. Tiger Panthera tigris is also not uncommon. Periyar has perhaps the best representative forests where most of the southern Western Ghats endemic and rare mammal species are found, such as the Lion-tailed Macaque Macaca silenus, the Nilgiri Langur Trachypithecus johni and the Travancore Flying Squirrel Petinomys fuscocapillus (Ramachandran et al. 1986). Wild Dogs Cuon alpinus, uncommon in other forests, are regularly seen in Periyar, chiefly around the lake where their main prey such as Sambar Cervus unicolor, Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak, Mouse Deer Moschiola meminna and Wild Boar Sus scrofa concentrate. Indian Giant Squirrel Ratufa indica and Gaur Bos gaurus are very common in this Sanctuary.
Zacharias et al. (1996) noted 35 species of fish, including 13 endemic to the southern Western Ghats. Two new species, namely Lepidopygopsis typhus (Schizothoracinae) and Crossocheilus periyarensis (Cypriniidae) were recorded from Periyar Lake, while Echathalakanda (Barbus) ophiocephalus (Cypriniidae) was rediscovered from Periyar river. This was believed to be extinct.
Some temporary human encroachment is found inside the Reserve, but on the whole the forest inside the Reserve is wellprotected. However, the Reserve is surrounded by human habitations. Within walking distance of Kumili, the forest is under considerable pressure from wood-cutting, and grass patches are heavily grazed by cattle. Permanent cultivation reaches the edge of the Sanctuary in many areas. On the lower southwestern slopes, there are rubber plantations and tea estates, while a scattering of coffee and spices dominate the higher plateau around Vandiperiyar and Peermade. The steep ghat slope below Kumili is clothed in increasingly disturbed deciduous woodland, ending abruptly in the agricultural fields of the Cumbum Valley. Cardamon estates surround the forested boundary to the northeast and east, where the equally steep and much higher flanks support more extensive evergreen and moist deciduous forest, with a narrow strip of reserve forest along the base. There has been some planting of eucalyptus on the grassland and there are some abandoned cardamom clearings. Elephant poaching is a major menace. There are very few tuskers left, and the remaining ones have to be constantly protected.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 24/01/2022.