Guest Author - Preena Deepak
The Western Ghats runs along the South West coast of India and is one of the world’s major mountain ranges. The thick vegetation, steep hills and mountains here are home to several species of flora and fauna. On the foothills of these gigantic mountains is the historic town of Srivilliputur which is renowned for its religious monuments and the Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary.
Spread across an area of 480 sq. km, the Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary is home for giant tree squirrels Ratufa macroura which are listed as a threatened species. The Tamil Nadu Forest Department maintains a census of this vulnerable squirrel and also oversees visits to the sanctuary.
In the cozy comfort of the tall trees that are scattered all over the sanctuary, grizzled squirrels can be seen scurrying along, munching on nuts and ripe fruits. Their nests made from leaves can also be spotted on the long branches of the trees here.
The chances of spotting the grizzled squirrels in their natural habitat is high only between 8 and 10 am in the morning or 4 and 5 pm in the evening. Only at this time these tree dwellers look for food and come out of their nests. Carrying a pair of binoculars will help as trees here are quiet tall and it is not possible to get a good look at the squirrels from the ground without them.
It is possible to go into the sanctuary by vehicle only up to a certain point after which the path narrows down and the thick vegetation makes it impossible for four wheelers to move ahead. However the trek along this forest path is most fascinating and there is no guessing what one may spot along this trail.
The jungle leads on through mountain ranges and has many more inhabitants as well. On the hills the flying squirrel and red squirrel can be seen too. Elephants, sambar deer, spotted deer, leopards, fly catchers, jungle fowls, Indian bisons, bears and many more wild animals live in this jungle and making a trip with Forest Officials is most advisable.
Walking through these woods, it is difficult to move on without admiring the different hues of green along with wild flowers in bloom. Tall mango, tamarind, cotton and bamboo trees give their refreshing shade while the shrubs below fill the air with their natural aroma. The air here is so pure and free from any pollution. Tiny streams pop up at regular intervals and it can be fun walking through the cold waters. These water holes are also spots to see animals that come down the hills for a refreshing drink.
The sanctuary is open all through the year and visitors can stay at forest guest houses or private lodges. Officers of the Forest Department offer guided tours of the sanctuary and accompanying them is the best option to maximize chances of spotting giant squirrels along with cautious words of wisdom on the woods.
Here are two books that might help
Buy Western Ghats from Flipkart.com
Buy Handbook of National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and Biosphere Reserves in India from Flipkart.com