Srivilliputhur Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary
The Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary at Sirvilliputhur in southern Tamil nadu, was declared as a sanctuary in December 1989. It spreads over 480 sq.KM, This sanctuary is contiguous to Periyar Tiger Reserve on the South western side and the Megamalai Reserve Forest on the north western side and Its southern limit is contiguous with the Sivagiri Reserved Forst of Tirunelveli Forest Division.
This lies mostly in Virdhunagar District and partly in Madurai district nestling in thehigh ranges of the western ghats. The altitude varies from 100 MSL to 2010 MSL. It receives both southwest and northeast monsoons. The varied climate and topographic conditions prevailing in the sanctuary present remarkable diversity both in Flora and Fauna.
The sanctuary is located in the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats with a number of peaks reaching upto 1800 m . It is the eastern watershed boundary for the river Periyar and one of the best preserved forests south of the Palghat Gap.
The tributaries of the river Vaipaar and few rivulets draining into the river Gundaar are originating in this hill tracts of the Sanctuary. The climate is generally hot and dry in the foothills. Hot tropical climate prevails in the upper elevations. The average annual rainfall ranges from 800- 2300 mm.
The sanctuary has a wide range of habitats – from the higher elevation Upper Montane forests and grasslands, mid elevation Wet Evergreen, Semi Evergreen, Moist Deciduous, Open Deciduous, Closed Deciduous forests and grasslands with scrub jungles in the foot hills. The floral diversity is extremely rich owing to the different types of forest formations due to the altitudinal gradient and rainfall patterns. The sanctuary has one Medicinal Plant Conservation Area (MPCA) located at Thaniparai
There is a wide range of herbivores, carnivores and omnivores in the Grizzled Squirrel Sanctuary. Resident and migrating elephants are common. The other important animals are Tiger, Leopard, Gaur, Nilgiri tahr, Spotted deer, Barking deer, Sambar, Wild-boar, Porcupine, Nilgiri langur, Lion-tailed macaque, Common langur, Slender lorris, Bonnet macaque, Sloth bear, Indian Giant Squirrel and Flying Squirrel.
The sanctuary is inhabited by extremely rich and diverse fauna. Over 200 species of avifauna have been reported from this sanctuary that includes some rare birds such as the Red faced Malkoha, Nilgiri Flycatcher and Malayan Night Heron. The Great Pied Hornbill is well and widely distributed in the Sanctuary The main raptors are the Serpent Eagle, Hawks and Black Eagle. The Sanctuary has 18 species of snakes, 15 species of lizards, over 10 species of amphibians and over 56 species of butterflies now.
The Grizzled Squirrel (Ratufa macroura)–flagship species of this sanctuary is highly restricted to south India and Sri Lanka. Ratufa macroura dandolena is distinctive in having the dorsal surface and tail grey or brownish grey more or less grizzled with white. It breeds once a year, producing a single offspring. The distribution of the Grizzled Squirrels is restricted to seven isolated riparian dry deciduous forests in the Sanctuary.
As soon as day light appears in the morning the animal comes out of the nest., reaches the food trees and starts feeding. From 6 AM to 11 AM “Feeding” is its most dominant activity. In the evening, 3 to 4 PM is the major feeding time. The squirrels take rest between 11 AM and 3 PM at the stretch.
The squirrels feed mostly on fruits. When they perceive lack of fruits, they go in for tender leaves. Seeds, tender leaves and fruits are their diet. Tamarind forms the key food tree species in Alagarkoil area, but the squirrels survive also in localities where there are no Tamarind trees.The important food trees are Tamarind, Vagai, Usil, Naval, Neer maruthu, Thani, Neem and Mango
The home range of an individual is between 0.197 ha. And 0.611 ha. This species is restricted to mixed deciduous forests and riverine forests occurring in plains or at elevations below 800 m MSL.
The drey’s location is mostly at forked branches where crowns of neighbouring trees interlink. This would enable the squirrel to move away from the site by jumping from tree to tree when threatened. It is observed that an individual constructs two nests within its home range. The squirrels occasionally visit their nests during day time.
The sanctuary can be visited throughout the year. There are two dams viz. Pilavakkal and Koilar situated along the foothills of the sanctuary which are the best places to see water birds and other wildlife. There is one rest house situated inside the sanctuary in Mudaliar Oothu, one of the best places to see the Nilgiri Tahr.
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