With a total forest cover of 10,336 sq kms, Kerala provides a natural habitat for diverse wildlife. The steep topography creates great variation in climate and soil conditions, resulting in high levels of bio-diversity. The Western Ghats, with its diverse physical environment, is one of the world’s 34 bio-diversity hotspots.
Some of the Wildlife Sanctuaries:
Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary
Spread over 55 sq kms of tropical and semi evergreen forests on the Western Ghats, the Aralam is home to elephants, deer, leopards and jungle cats. The nearest airport is at Kozhikode, 71 kms away.
Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary
Located about 60 kms from Munnar, the Chinnar Sanctuary comprises of a unique thorny scrub. It is the habitat of the endangered Giant squirrel. One can also find elephants, spotted deer, sambar, hanuman monkeys and peacocks.
Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary
Situated about 120 kms from the nearest airport at Kozhikode, Muthanga is the ideal place to catch a glimpse of wild elephants. Tigersw are also spotted frequently. Being contiguous with Nagarhole National Park and Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka and Mudumalai of Tamilnadu, this sanctuary has plenty of wildlife.
Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary
This virgin valley in Palakkad district harbours various aquatic life including the mugger crocodiles. Other fauna include bonnet macaques, Nilgiri langurs, tigers, spectacled cobras, kraits, vipers, turtles, darters and black eagles. The nearest airport is at Coimbatore in Tamilnadu, about 84 kms.
Peechi –Vazhani Wildlife Sanctuary
Designated an Important Bird Area owing to the presence of globally endangered species of birds like the brod-tailed grass warbler, 16 Western Ghats endemic birds and 15 species whose distribution is confined to India. 177 species of birds have been recorded here and there are more than 50 different kinds of orchids. Mammals include the tiger, leopard, fox, deer, elephant and elk. Kochi, about 100kms away is the nearest airport.
Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary
Thick, luxuriant forests spread over 53 sq kms support wildlife such as elephants, sambar, leopard, lion-tailed macaque and cormorants. The nearest airport is at Thiruvananthapuram, 56 kms away.
Shenduruny Wildlife Sanctuary
Located around 72 kms away from the nearest airport at Thiruvananthapuram and declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1984, it gets its name from an endemic species of trees called Chenkuruny. Elephants, tigers, deer, langurs, sambar and lion-tiled macaque are among the various wildlife found here. According to reent studies, this was the spring of the oldest river civilization, even older to the Indus Valley.
Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary
Situated at a height of 450-748 m and spanning over 77 sq kms, it occupies the forest land between two rivers, Cheruthoni and Periyar and supports wildlife such as elephants, bison, sambar, deer, jungle cats, tigers, vipers, cobras, kraits and plenty of other non-poisonous varieties of snakes. Maurai, about 140 kms, is the nearest airport.
Periyar Tiger Reserve
Spread over 777 sq kms, Periyar is one of the 27 Tiger reserves in the country. Community based eco-tourism is promoted by the locals at this Reserve and there is a variety of programmes to choose from. The nearest airport is in Madurai, 140 kms away.
Thekkady Wildlife Sanctaury
Over 1965 flowering plants, 171 grass species, 143 species of orchids thrive in this unending chain of hills and spice plantations. Besides the major attraction of elephants in this sanctuary, giant squirrel, sloth bear, flying squirrel, cobra, viper, krait, and numerous amphibians and fish are also found in this haven of wildlife. Madurai is the nearest airport at a distance of 140 kms.
Tholpetty Wildlife Sanctuary
A popular elephant spotting destination and the best way is to camp there. It is located 154 kms from the nearest airport at Kozhikode.
Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
Being contiguous to Nagarhole and Bandipur of Karnataka and Mudumalai of Tamil Nadu, it is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and supports among other wildlife, elephants, spotted deer, bison, tiger, cheetah and wild bear. The nearest airport is Kochi, 300 kms away.
Eravikulam National Park
Situated about 15 kms from Munnar, this is home to the endangered mountain goat of South India, the Nilgiri Tahr. A unique ecosystem here finds vast grasslands interspersed with stunted evergreen forests. The nearest airport is at Kochi, about 150 kms away.
Silent Valley National Park
The core of the Nilgiri Bioshpere Reserve and one of the last undisturbed tracts of South Western Ghats rain forests, it is teeming with wildlife. It supports many endangered species of wildlife and over 100 species of butterflies, 400 species of moths, and other fauna like the Great Indian Hornbill, Nilgiri Laughing Thrush, Lion-taled macaque and Ceylon Frog Moth. The nearest airport is in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, 55 kms away.
Because of the large influx of tourists to these wildlife destinations, the State authorities are increasingly promoting eco-tourism in order to preserve nature by making visitors aware of the protective, productive and regulatory functions of forests.