• Success Story
Parambikulam - Best Protected Tiger Reserve
by   Raja Chatterjee

It is the pompousness of Parambikulam encased with all its prized jewels that triggers the imagination of Nature lovers. Western Ghats is regarded as one of the world’s 34 bio diversity hotspots considering the floral and faunal abundance of species. Nestled in the heart of Western Ghats in Palakkad district of Kerala, Parambikulam Tiger Reserve is christened as a ‘paradise on earth’ by wildlife enthusiasts across the world. Parambikulam is famous for its serene beauty, wildlife, primitive tribes and water bodies. A landscape bestowed with the unique biodiversity, it is the home for rare species of plants, birds and amphibians like the Lion-Tailed Macaques, Mouse Deer, Nilgirilangurs, NilgiriTahr, Nilgiri Marten, Great Pied Hornbill, CeyloneFrog Mouth,

Parambikulam Frog, King Cobra, Peninsular Bay Owl, Cane Turtle, to name a few. Its Natural Wonders are equally complemented by their vociferous protectors, the EDC members headed by the enigmatic Mr.Sanjayan Kumar, IFS and his team of foresters. Though this quintessential combination of ‘pristine forests and its zealous protectors’ is endemic to this part of India and elsewhere, a contrast still exists. While the unique Natural History evolved here over eons, its perpetrators turned curators, came to fame only recently. Parambikulam Tiger Reserve is wedged between the Anamalai ranges of Tamil Nadu in the east and the Nelliampathy ranges of Kerala on the other side. The altitude of the terrain varies between 300 m to 1438 m above mean sea level. With an advantage of 7 major valleys and 3 important river systems, three man-made reservoirs namely Parambikulam, Thunakadavu and Peruvaripallam have been created within the sanctuary with a total water-spread of 20.60 Sq. Km. Parambikulam Tiger Reserve spans over an area of 643.66 sq. km. while the Sanctuary tucked within sprawls on 285 sq. km. Forests of Parambikulam were subjected to an untenable, century old practice of exploitation for timber. Though the state sponsored extraction was stopped, the overwhelming challenge of changing livelihood of the locals still remained. A series of innovative Eco-development initiatives focussing on conservation, trailed by Eco-tourism brought a paradigm shift in livelihood pattern. Within half a decade, dramatic changes were engineered which added to the sublime saga of Parambikulam’s transformation over a sanctuary. An act of regimentation, emanated from a shared vision that fuelled its army of progenies to set Parambikulam free of Poachers, Fire, Cattle and Plastic. Plenitudes of accolades consolidate Parambikulam’s position as the best protected Reserve in the Project Tiger family, a role model for the world to follow.

During the 19th century, the forests of Parambikulam were under two broad administrative units viz., Sungam Forest Reserve and Parambikulam Forest Reserve.Sungam Forest Reserve was a part of erstwhile Nemmara Forest Division while Parambikulam Forest Reserve was only a Range.During the period, Parambikulam was famous for its timber, especially teak. The teak from this region was internationally known as ‘Cochin Teak’.For extraction of timber, a unique tramway was laid in 1907 that existed till the first half of the last century, mainly transporting valuable teak from ParambikulamviaChalakkudy to Cochin port. Porter, in 1886,drafted the first ever plan to manage the Sungam Forest Reserve, culminating in heavy exploitation of forests. The reserve has 85 Sq. km. area under teak plantation introduced in 1927 onwards, raised and harvested till 1983. Then, the Forest Department of Kerala ushered in a sea change in its conservation outlook and decided to confer perpetual protection to the reserve. Parambikulam was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1985 with an area of 284.85 Sq. kms. This Protected Area (PA) was further brought under the ambit of Project Tiger and declared as ParambikulamTiger Reserve in 2007 with an extended area of 643.66 Sq. Km.