Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary at Thekkady in Kerala, is one of
the 16 Project Tiger Reserves in India. About a century ago,
a British engineer, Col. J. Pennycuick, chalked out a plan
to dam the Periyar River, subsequently, a dam was constructed
in 1895. This resulted in the adjoining forests being granted
protection, by the Maharaja of Travancore. The 55 sq km reservoir
and the surrounding forests, provide protection to the animals
within. Today, Periyar is undeniably, one of the most impressive
wildlife sanctuaries in the world.
The terrain is basically hilly, and the only flat areas of
the sanctuary are the grasslands, at the edges of the lakes.
Impregnable forests and open grasslands make for a sustaining
environment, for both the carnivore and herbivore population
of the reserve.
Periyar is famous for its pachyderm
population, which is around 800 in number. Periyar is probably
one of the few places, where one can observe the elephants
in their natural surroundings, uninterrupted, and approach
to within 20 metres of them, fearlessly. Unlike their African
counterparts, Indian female elephants have no tusks. Very
few of the all - bulls, too, have tusks, a sad comment on
the intense level of poaching in the country. Apart from elephants,
the other animals to be seen in the sanctuary are gaur, wild
pigs, sambar, barking deer, mouse deer, dhole (Indian wild
dog) and very rarely, a tiger. There are, now, an estimated
40 tigers here. Four species of primates are found at Periyar
- the rare lion-tailed macaque, the Nilgiri langur, common
langur and bonnet macaque. Periyar also happens to be the
habitat of the elusive Nilgiri tahr, which is rarely to be
The birdlife comprises of darters, cormorants, kingfishers,
great hornbills (the great Malabar hornbill) and racket-tailed
drongoes. The reptilian population boasts of monitor lizards,
that can be spotted basking in the sun, on the rocks along
the lakeshore, especially in the cooler months. Pythons, king
cobras, flying lizards, flying squirrels, flying snakes and
to top it all, flying frogs are the other inhabitants of this
There are a few fascinating tribal villages around the Periyar,
primarily the Manan and Oorali tribes. The Manans are ace
fishermen, and a few of them still indulge in the traditional,
if dangerous, practice of collecting the honey of large and
deadly hill bees. The Ooralis build tree dwellings, though
not as residences, but watch-towers to keep wild pigs, and
elephants from ruining their crops.
Periyar is a sanctuary only traversed by boat, which annuls
the chances of traffic noise, and dust. With special permission,
one can boat to the source of the Periyar Lake, the Periyar
river. This area falls at the heart of the sanctuary, not
usually open to visits, and the rest house located there,
is known as Thannikudi. The sloth bear is a common sight at
Thannikudi, and tigers, too, prefer this area, as it is far
removed from the main park area, hence, peaceful. On the whole,
visiting the Periyar Sanctuary is a delightful and enlightening
experience, one that should not be missed for the world.
When to visit
The best time to visit Periyar is between October and April.
How to get there
The nearest town is Kumily (4 km).
By road: Periyar is connected
by bus service from Thiruvananthapuram (271 km), Cochin (200
km), Kottayam (114 km), and Madurai (140 km).
By rail : The nearest railhead is Kottayam on the Ernakulam Thiruvananthapuram