The Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR), located in the Tamil Nadu districts of Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari, is one of the protected places with rich flora and fauna. It is part of the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve and is the second-largest protected area in Tamil Nadu. On the highest sections of the reserve, the vegetation changes from dry thorn woodland to dry deciduous, moist deciduous, and a patch of West Coast wet evergreen woods.
KMTR was designated as the “First Tiger Reserve of Tamil Nadu” and the country’s 17th Tiger Reserve. This reserve’s forests are rich in biodiversity and endemism. The main area of KMTR is 895 square kilometers, which includes two nearby sanctuaries, Kalakad Wildlife Sanctuary and Mundanthurai Tiger Sanctuary in Tirunelveli District, as well as parts of Veerapuli and Kilamalai Reserve Forests in Kanyakumari District. Kalakad Wildlife Sanctuary was founded in 1976 largely to protect the Lion Tailed Macaque.
This Biosphere Reserve has an abundance of water resources. River Thamirabarani, Ramanadi, Karayar, Servalar, Manimuthar, Pachayar, Kodaiyar, Gadananathi, Kallar, and a few other rivers come from KMTR and provide drinking water and agriculture to Tirunelveli, Tuticorin, Virudhunagar, and Kanyakumari districts. As a result, KMTR is also known as the River Sanctuary. These rivers are responsible for the construction of seven large dams: the Raiyar, Lower Dam, Servalar, Manimuthar, Ramanadi, Gadananathi, and Kodaiyar.
With about 1500 plant species identified, Evergreen forests, moist deciduous forests, and sholas, which are stunted evergreen forests found at high altitudes, are among the vegetation types. Teak, rosewood, sandalwood, and bamboo trees dominate the woodlands, providing critical habitats for species. The reserve also contains various types of medicinal plants and herbs that are employed in traditional medicinal practices by local populations. The reserve’s prominent plant species include the vanda orchid, a gorgeous and uncommon species of orchid found in the sholas, and the Ceropegia, a flowering plant genus recognized for its unusual and exquisite blossoms.
The reserve is a vital habitat for the Bengal tiger, the area’s most emblematic species. The reserve also has the Indian elephant, Indian giant squirrel, sambar deer, spotted deer, barking deer, and wild boar. Several primates, including the endangered lion-tailed macaque and the Nilgiri langur, live in the area. Furthermore, the reserve is a refuge for birdwatchers, with over 200 bird species documented in the vicinity. The Malabar grey hornbill, big pied hornbill, and Malabar trogon are among the significant bird species present in the reserve.