About the Western Ghats

The hill ranges of the Western Ghats, a global biodiversity hotspot, extend along the west coast of India from the river Tapti in the north to the southern tip of India.
Their positioning makes the Western Ghats biologically rich and biogeographically unique - a veritable treasure house of biodiversity. Though covering an area of 180,000km2, or just under 6 per cent of the land area of India, the Western Ghats contain more than 30 per cent of all plant, fish, herpeto-fauna, bird, and mammal species found in India. Many species are endemic, such as the Nilgiri tahr (Hemitragus hylocrius) and the lion-tailed macaque (Macaca silenus). In fact, 50 per cent of India’s amphibians and 67 per cent of fish species are endemic to this region.

The region has a spectacular assemblage of large mammals - around 30 per cent of the world’s Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) population and 17 per cent of the world’s existing tigers (Panthera tigris) call this area their home. Protection for these is extended through several nationally significant wildlife sanctuaries, tiger reserves, and national parks.

The Western Ghats include a diversity of ecosystems ranging from tropical wet evergreen forests to montane grasslands containing numerous medicinal plants and important genetic resources such as the wild relatives of grains, fruit and spices. They also include the unique shola ecosystem which consists of montane grasslands interspersed with evergreen forest patches.

The Western Ghats perform important hydrological and watershed functions. Approximately 245 million people live in the peninsular Indian states that receive most of their water supply from rivers originating in the Western Ghats. Thus, the soil and water of this region sustain the livelihoods of millions of people. With the possible exception of the Indo-Malayan region, no other biodiversity hotspot impacts the lives of such a large population.

Historically, WWF-India has had a reasonably strong presence in the region. The organization has been actively involved in the Western Ghats region since the early nineties through the Biodiversity 'Hotspots' Conservation Programme (1993-2005) with support from the MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation. The main focus of work at present has been to identify and map critical wildlife corridors, mitigate human-elephant conflict, strengthen protected area management, promote sustainable livelihoods and assess the status of key species like the tiger and Nilgiri tahr outside protected areas to develop conservation strategies. A strong set of relationships and partnerships has been developed with state and local government authorities, civil society organizations and community groups in the region.
© Ameen Ahmed/WWF-India
© Ameen Ahmed/WWF-India
© Ameen Ahmed/WWF-India
Mkurthi Amblavaram view
© Ameen Ahmed/WWF-India

Habitat and Distribution

Nilgiris Eastern Ghats Landscape

The Nilgiris Eastern Ghats Landscape (NEG) is the foremost elephant country of the subcontinent. It has the single largest contiguous population of Asiatic elephants in its range and holds the key to the long term survival of the species. Over 6,000 elephants live in the Nilgiri and Eastern Ghats Landscape which spreads over an area of about 12,000km2. Other large mammals found in the area are the gaur, sambar and tiger. The terrain of the landscape is mostly undulating with low hills. The area extends from the south of the Brahmagiri hills in Karnataka through the Wayanad plateau into the northern Nilgiri hill slopes and the Mysore plateau which links up to the Sigur plateau and the Moyar river valley. The Moyar valley rises up the slopes of the Eastern Ghats leading into the Thalamalai plateau going up to the east of the Biligirirangan range into Bargur, Sathyamangalam and Madeshwaramalai up to the Cauvery River.

Southern Western Ghats Landscape

The Southern Western Ghats (SWG) cover an area of 7000km2 through the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and harbour a very rich floral and faunal biodiversity. It forms one of the largest contiguous blocks of ‘good’ forest cover in the Southern Western Ghats. This region harbours high levels of endemism and over 15 per cent is under the Protected Area network. Some of the important and unique habitat types found here include wet evergreen forests and sholas in the higher elevations. The Southern Western Ghats is also a priority terrestrial and freshwater ecoregion of the WWF global programme with the entire Western Ghats complex identified as a Global Ecoregion 200.
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