Many of Kenneth Anderson's highly engaging stories take place in the forests of Hosur and Dharmapuri forest divisions. We prefer to call this region the Melagiris. The Melagiri region is a an undulating landscape nestled between the Cauvery and Chinar rivers in Tamil Nadu, India. It comprises 1,295 sq km of dry deciduous, scrub, and dry evergreen forests. It forms a part of the Nilagiris Biosphere Reserve and Cauvery Elephant Reserve and is home to important elephant migration routes. The Melagiris forms part of an almost unbroken stretch of forests from Bannerghatta National Park, Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, Biligirirangan Hills and Sathyamangalam Forests, and eventually the Tiger reserves of Nilgiri Biosphere. It holds enormous potential of revival as an important Tiger habitat.
Home to Many Endangered Species
This stunningly beautiful forest area, rich in a variety of flora and fauna, was the scene for many of Kenneth Anderson's unforgettable stories. Abutting the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary (Karnataka) right across the river, these forests stretching east to west nearly 30 km along the river Cauvery from Pennagram RF on the east to Kesthur RF on the west, is rich in several endangered species including the Grizzled Giant Squirrel, Smooth Coated Otter and Marsh Crocodile. Other mammals found in the riverine forests adjoining the Cauvery are the Asian Elephant, Sloth Bear, Dhole, Leopard, Four Horned Antelope, Sambhar, Chital, Small Indian Civet, Common Mongoose, Madras Tree Shrew, Jungle Cat, Golden Jackal, Gerbil, Black Naped Hare, Bonnet Macaque and Wild pig. Indian Gaur, Common Palm Civet, Mouse Deer, Barking Deer, Ruddy Mongoose, Stripe Necked Mongoose, Slender Loris and Rusty spotted cat are also found in addition to the other mammals on the forest clad hills away from the Cauvery. Of these 26 species 12 are considered threatened by IUCN. There are no reliable sightings of some animals such the Hyena which puts their existence in these forests at doubt. Common Langoors are by no means common here are very rarely sighted. The black buck once common among the plateau of Hosur and the Tiger have become locally extinct. We have recorded 266 species of birds in the Melagiris including of migrants and residents. Some endangered species such as the Egyptian vulture, which happens to be the only vulture in our checklist has not been sighted in a while. Some threatened birds are the Indian spotted eagle and Painted Stork. White naped tit a patchily distributed migrant may occur here though we have not come across any as yet.
The flora here is equally unique. Some specimen of Muthee or Terminalia arjuna along the Cauvery must be truly ancient. The slopes of Gutherayan (1390 mtrs) are cloaked by evergreen patches which harbor many atypical species for the area such as Garcenia gummigatta, Wild Jack, colossal Wild Mango, Memecylon species, Cinnamon etc. Many other endangered flora are also to be found here. Shorea roxbhurgii is an beautiful and gregarious endangered tree that lends its name to Jalari ghat and the Taluk and town of Thali. Jalari and Thali are among the names of this magnificent tree. Once famous for Sandalwood and the notorious Sandalwood smuggler Veerappan, one would be hard pressed to find a Sandalwood tree with a girth of a mans leg in these forests. Even the infrequently encountered saplings bear axe wounds at the base of the stem. The forests have been degrading with dense tree halving in the 1990s. Scrub jungle has multiplied by more than 10 times in the same period.
High Potential Tiger Habitat
The resurgence in tiger numbers in the well protected tiger reserves is causing a spill over into adjoining forest areas. Tigers once thrived along both the banks of the Cauvery in the not too distant past. It was also well established that tigers swam across the Cauvery in the course of following their habitual beats. Recently Tiger was reportedly sighted just across the river in Karnataka. Given adequate protection, it is entirely reasonable to expect the Melagiris to be repopulated by migrant tigers from the connected tiger reserves.