|Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve|
|Area||5,520 km2 (2,130 sq mi)|
|Governing body||Tamilnadu forest department, Karnataka forest department, Kerala forest department, Project Tiger|
The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is a biosphere reserve in the Nilgiri mountains of the Western Ghats in South India. It is the largest protected forest area in India, spreading across Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. It includes the protected areas Mudumalai, Mukurthi, Nagarhole, Bandipur, Silent Valley National Park, and Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary, Wayanad, Karimpuzha and Sathyamangalam wildlife sanctuaries.
A ecosystem of the hill ranges of Nilgiris and its surrounding environments covering a tract of over 5000 square kilometers was constituted as Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in September 1986 under Man and Biosphere Programme. Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve is India's first and foremost biosphere reserves with a heritage, rich in flora and fauna. Tribal groups like the Badagas, Todas, Kotas, Irullas, Kurumbas, Paniyas, Adiyans, Edanadan Chettis, Allar, Malayan are native to the reserve. India's natural Gold fields are also located in the regions in and around Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve scattered in the states of Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.
The word Nilgiri is derived from the Tamil word neelam meaning blue and giri meaning mountain.
In the 1970s, an area of around 5,670 km2 (2,190 sq mi) in the Nilgiri Mountains was proposed to be included in the list of biosphere reserves of India. This proposed area encompassed a forestry zone of 2,290 km2 (880 sq mi), a core zone of 2,020 km2 (780 sq mi), an agricultural zone of 1,330 km2 (510 sq mi) and a restoration zone of 30 km2 (12 sq mi). Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve was established in September 1986 and is India's first biosphere reserve under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme.
Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve extends over an area of 5,520 km2 (2,130 sq mi) from the eastern part of Kodagu District to Erode District in the east and to the Palakkad Gap in the south with an elevation of 80 to 2,600 m (260 to 8,530 ft). It has a buffer zone of 4,280 km2 (1,650 sq mi) and core areas of 1,250.3 km2 (482.7 sq mi), comprising 701.8 km2 (271.0 sq mi) in Karnataka, 264.5 km2 (102.1 sq mi) in Kerala and 274 km2 (106 sq mi) in Tamil Nadu.
The reserve extends from the tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests, tropical moist forests of the western slopes of the Ghats to the tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests tropical dry forests on the east slopes. Rainfall ranges from 500mm to 7000mm per year. The reserve encompasses three ecoregions, the South Western Ghats moist deciduous forests, South Western Ghats montane rain forests, and South Deccan Plateau dry deciduous forests.
Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve harbours more than 3,700 plant species, including about 200 medicinal plants; the 132 endemic flowering plants are contained in the list of endemic plants in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Stunted evergreen trees grow in shola forest patches above 1,800 m (5,900 ft) and are festooned with epiphytes.
Tall trees above a height of 18 m (59 ft) are used by the giant honey bee (Apis dorsata) for building nests, including the species Tetrameles nudiflora, Indian laurel (Ficus microcarpa), Coromandel ebony (Diospyros melanoxylon), yellow snake tree (Stereospermum tetragonum), rusty kamala (Mallotus tetracoccus) and Acrocarpus fraxinifolius. During the peak flowering season from January to May, at least 73 species blossom including teak (Tectona grandis), red cedar (Erythroxylum monogynum), hiptage (Hiptage benghalensis), large-flowered bay tree (Persea macrantha), zunna berry (Ziziphus rugosa) and creeping smartweed (Persicaria chinensis). They depend on pollination by giant honey bee, Asiatic honey bee (Apis cerana), red dwarf honey bee (A. florea) and Trigona bees.
Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve harbours 14 bird species that are endemic to the Western Ghats. Of these, the Nilgiri laughingthrush (Strophocincla cachinnans) inhabits only higher elevations above 1,200 m (3,900 ft).
Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and adjacent areas host the largest Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) population in India, estimated at about 5,750 individuals by 2007. Herds move in 562–800 km2 (217–309 sq mi) large home ranges and congregate at perennial watersources during the dry season.
Fauna includes over 100 species of mammals, 370 species of birds, 80 species of reptiles, about 39 species of fish, 31 amphibians and 316 species of butterflies. It is home to mammals like the Bengal tiger, Indian leopard, chital deer, gaur, sambar deer, dhole, golden jackal, Indian boar, Nilgiri tahr, Indian spotted chevrotain, black buck, Asian palm civet, sloth bear, four-horned antelope, Nilgiri marten, Indian crested porcupine, Malabar giant squirrel, honey badger, Indian grey mongoose, Indian pangolin, Indian fox, smooth coated otter, and painted bat. Primates such as the lion tailed macaque, Nilgiri langur, gray langur and bonnet macaque. The birds found here are Indian peacock, Nilgiri flycatcher, grey junglefowl, Malabar pied hornbill, Malabar parakeet, great hornbill, Nilgiri wood pigeon, Indian vulture, black-hooded oriole, grey-headed bulbul and Malabar grey hornbill.
Amphibians are purple frog, Silent valley brush frog, Malabar gliding frog, Beddomixalus.
Shola forests outside protected areas are threatened by fragmentation, especially in the vicinity of settlements. The rapid and dense growth of the invasive Passiflora mollissima inhibits the regeneration of native tree species in the Shola forest patches.
Poaching, deforestation, forest fires and dangers to native tribes are the main threats. Despite poaching banned by law in 1972, people still tend to illegally hunt animals such as tigers, elephants and chital for skin, fur or tusks. Forests are being destroyed for farming or livestock. Animals that kill livestock are killed by farmers. Forest fires destroy vegetation. Native tribes are being evacuated from their homelands, resulting in loss of tribal culture.