Srivilliputhur Grizzled Giant Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary is located close to Madurai and was established in the year 1988. It is bordered on the southwest by the Periyar Tiger Reserve and occupies an area of 485.2 sq km. Elevation ranges between 163-1,940 m and annual rainfall received is around 2,903 mm. The sanctuary lies between the longitudes 77o20'25.37"E and 77o42'52.96"E and latitudes 9o23'37.4"N and 9o48'1.5"N.
Vegetation type in this sanctuary at medium elevations includes evergreen, dry evergreen and dry deciduous forests. Tree species in the evergreen rainforests are Cullenia exarillata-Mesua ferrea and Palaquium ellipticum types. In the dry evergreen forests, the tree species predominantly seen are the Diospyros foliolosa-Mitreophora heyneana-Miliusa spp. and Drypetes porteri facies types. The dry, deciduous forests have a mix of combinations of Albizzia amara-Acacia spp. and Gyrocarpus jacquini slope type along with Anogeissus latifolia-Pterocarpus marsupium-Terminalia spp. types (Ramesh et al. 1997). The forests have also a significant number of tamarind trees (Tamarindus indicus), which stand out as one of the favourite nesting and foraging tree of the grizzled giant squirrels (Joshua 1992).
As the name indicates, this sanctuary has been set up primarily to restore the population of the grizzled giant squirrel (Ratufa macroura). However, the sanctuary is not the exclusive habitat of the grizzled giant squirrel but home to many other threatened species like the Indian giant squirrel (Ratufa indica) , slender loris (Loris lyddekerianu), Nilgiri langur (Trachypithecus johnii) and the lion-tailed macaque (Macaca silenus). Others like the Nilgiri marten (Martes gwatkinsi), Nilgiri tahr (Hermitragus hylocrius), Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), Indian bison or gaur (Bos gaurus) and Indian wild dog (Coun alpinus) too can be found here (Joshua 2004).
Recognised as an Important Bird Area, the sanctuary has a diverse population of avifauna with nearly 220 species of birds including 14 species of birds endemic to the Western Ghats, having been recorded. These include the 'Critically endangered' Oriental white-backed vulture (Gyps bengalensis) and the long-billed vulture (Gyps indicus), 'Vulnerable' species like the Nilgiri wood-pigeon (Columba elphistonii), broad-tailed grass warbler (Schoenicola platyura) and the white-bellied shortwing (Brachypteryx major) and 'Near threatened' species like the Nilgiri pipit (Anthus nilghiriensis), black and orange flycatcher (Ficedula nigrorufa) and the Nilgiri flycatcher (Eumyias albicaudata) (Joshua 2004).
Nearly 19 species of reptiles have been reported to inhabit this sanctuary, including three endemic species viz. draco or gliding lizard (Draco dussumieri), large-scaled calotes (Calotes grandisquamis) and southern green calotes (Calotes calotes) (Bhupathy and Kannan 2002).
Threats to this sanctuary arise from poaching, loss of habitat due to illegal cutting of trees, over grazing by livestock, forest fires and over exploitation of non-timber forest produce (Joshua and Johnsingh 1994). Overgrazing by livestock from neighboring areas as well as the adjacent towns of Rajapalayam and Srivilliputur is also a serious threat to the forests (Joshua 2004).
Bhupathy, S. and P. Kannan .2002. Status of Agamid lizards in the Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu, India. In: Biodiversity 'Hot Spots' conservation programme (BHCP). Final Report, Vol-1. Forests and Biodiversity Conservation Division, World Wide Fund for Nature-India, New Delhi, India. pp 133-170.
Joshua, J. 1992. Ecology of the endangered Grizzled Giant Squirrel (Ratufa macroura) in Tamil Nadu, South India. Ph.D. Thesis submitted to Bharatidasan University, Tiruchirapalli, India. 131 pp.
Joshua, J. and Johnsingh, A.J.T. 1994. Impact of biotic disturbances on the habitat and population of the endangered grizzled giant squirrel Ratufa macrorua in south India. Biological Conservation. 68:29-34.
Joshua, J. 2004. Srvivilliputhur Wildlife Sanctuary. In: Important Bird Areas in India: Priority sites for conservation (Islam, M. Z. and Rahmani, A. R).Indian Bird Conservation Network: Bombay Natural History Society and Birdlife International, UK. pp 983-964.
Menon, V. 2003. A field guide to Indian mammals. DK (India) Pvt Ltd and Penguin Book India (P) Ltd. 201 pp.
Ramesh, B.R., Franceschi, D. and Pascal, J.P. 1997. Forest map of South India: Thirvananthapuram-Tirunelveli. French Institute, Pondicherry, India.
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