Periyar Tiger Reserve is an ideal place for watching the Asian Elephant in close proximity. Periyar Tiger Reserve has a varied topography. The southern edge of the Western Ghats stretches more than 777 sq km and the central part constitutes an area of 350 sq kms. Its main attraction is the beautiful Periyar Lake that, despite immersing into some key forest areas, is an ideal solace for the wildlife. Numerous dams were built in the year 1895 as a part of an irrigation project for the supply of water to the dry regions in the east. Later, the project was promoted into a complete hydroelectric plant, claiming minimal harm to the wild habitat. After few years of the completion of the project, a huge tract was acclaimed as a reserved forest. In the 1930s, the lake and the nearby forests were acknowledged as a sanctuary. Ultimately, in the year 1978, Periyar Tiger Reserve became an integral part of Project Tiger in India.
The hills and valleys of Periyar are covered with mixed deciduous forests, nicely intercepted by the evergreen trees and scrublands. Flora of Periyar Tiger Reserve includes dense evergreen, semi evergreen and moist deciduous forests. The evergreen forests have lofty tree and have closed canopy. Some of the common trees are Vateria indica (Vellapine), Dipterocarpus indicus (Kalpine), Cullani excelsa (Karayani), Plaquium ellipticum (Palai) etc. Semi-evergreen forests consist of evergreen and deciduous trees. Main species found here are Artocarpus hirsuta (Aini), Salmalia malabarica (Elavu), Hopea parviflora (Thampakam), Tetrameles nudiflora (Vellacheeni) etc. Moist deciduous forests occur interspersed with grasslands around the lake and along the slopes on the north.
Periyar Tiger Reserve supports a variety of species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes. The flocks of gigantic elephants can easily be seen. Once in a blue moon, one can catch hold of Gaur near the banks of rivers and ponds. Sambar, Spotted Deer, Wild Boar, too, throng the banks of water bodies. Hordes of dogs can set wild in the shady nook of Periyar Tiger Reserve. Only a handful of tourists are lucky enough to get a glimpse of a tiger coming out from his forest abode to the open ground just to quench thirst from water bodies. Also mammals like Asian Elephant, Tiger, Leopard, Wild Dog (Dhole), Gaur (Indian Bison), Nilgiri Langur, Lion-tailed Macaque, Sambar, Barking Deer, Small Indian Civet, Striped-necked Mongoose, Indian Giant Squirrel, Large Brown Flying Squirrel, Slender Loris, Common Otter are worth mentioning.
The park is enriched with the chirping of beautiful birds. Giant squirrels and the Nilgiri Langur are often found taking rest in the shoddy abodes of forests. There are near about 280 species of birds. One can also catch sight of the woodland birds. Although they remain hidden their voices are clearly audible throughout the region. Cormorants, darters, storks, kingfishers and other water birds are rampantly found near the lakes. Woodland birds include Grey Jungle fowl, Painted Bush Quail, Red Spurfowl, Great-eared Nightjar, Sri Lanka Frogrnouth, Great Hornbill, Malabar Pied Hornbill, White-bellied Woodpecker, Malabar Parakeet, Dollarbird, Malabar Trogon, White-bellied Treepie, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, etc.
Amongst the tourists, the Periyar Tiger Reserve has a special attraction. Thousands of tourists come to this place every year. The Sabarimala Ayyappan Temple in the western part of the reserve is another major attraction. The peak season to make a visit to the park is during the months of October to April.
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