Meghamalai is a cool and misty mountain range situated in the Western Ghants in Theni district. It is a place of natural beauty dotted with cardamom plantations and tea estates. The place is situated at an elevation of 1,500 m above sea level and it is rich in flora and fauna. The meaning of Meghamalai is misty mountain range. This area, now mostly planted with tea, includes Cloudlands, Highwavys and Manalaar estates, the access to which is now largely restricted. It still includes large untouched remnants of evergreen forest. Vegetation ranges from scrub forests at the foothills, up to ubiquitous expanses of tea and coffee estates, to spice (pepper, cardamom, cinnamon) plantations and finally to the dense evergreen forests at the top.
Meghamalai forest area hosts a variety of birds, mammals, reptiles and butterflies. Resident and migratory elephants are common. Other animals sighted are tiger, leopard, Nilgiri tahr, gaur, spotted deer, barking deer, Sambar deer, wild boar, porcupine, Nilgiri langur, lion-tailed macaque, common langur, bonnet macaque, sloth bear, Grey Junglefowl, Smooth-coated Otter and flying squirrel. Bird like Red-whiskered Bulbul, Common Iora, White-browed Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Pied Bush Chat, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Barn Swallow, Spotted Dove, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Brahminy Kite, Long-tailed shrike and over 100 species of birds have been identified.
Megamalai Wildlife Sanctuary
Megamalai Wildlife Sanctuary on 600 km² of forest in the division. Priority tasks in the sanctuary should be the control of poaching and the use of pesticides, the elimination of ganja (Cannabis sativa) and the cultivation and scientific management of watersheds. The Megamalai Wildlife Sanctuary can be an excellent buffer to the Periyar Tiger Reserve and Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary and can immensely strengthen conservation in the southern Western Ghats, the range of hills south of the Palakkad Gap.
The rare Great Indian Hornbills are found here. The Great Indian Hornbills are one of the largest hornbills and these are found on sea level up to 5,000 feet (1,500 m) above ground. Great Indian Hornbills like to eat various types of berries. Hornbills swallow most of their food whole instead of breaking it down first. Hornbills are famous for their nesting ritual. Now these beautiful hornbills are becoming rare, mainly due to their large hunting for their meat and destruction of their natural habitat. Protection and restoration of destructed forest areas food-tree resources, will aid the conservation of hornbills in the region.
The sanctuary is also home to the endangered, arboreal Grizzled Giant Squirrel Ratufa macrora. The home range of an individual is between 1,970 and 6,110 m². This greyish brown squirrel weighs 1 to 1.8 kg and is the size of a small cat. It measures about 735 mm from nose to tail with the tail being 360 – 400 mm long. They construct nets at forked branches where the crowns of neighbouring trees meet. This enables the squirrel to move away from the site by jumping from tree to tree when threatened. It makes two nets. One it uses as a nursery and the other for resting. This confuses predators like birds and snakes.
Salim Ali's Fruit Bat
One of the rarest fruit bats of the world, Salim Ali's Fruit Bat, Latidens salimali, (named after Indian ornithologist Salim Ali) is only found in this mountain range. Salim Ali's fruit bat is the only species in the genus Latidens. It is a medium-sized fruit bat, which lacks an external tail. The head is covered in blackish-brown fur which is paler at the base, the wing membrane and the long fur are light brown in colour, and the underparts are light grey-brown. The species was first collected in 1948 by a British naturalist called Angus Hutton, who misidentified the specimen as the common short-nosed fruit bat. The specimen was re-examined later by Kitti Thonglongya who recognised it as a new species. Very little is known of the ecology of this species, however all fruit bats play an extremely important role as pollinators and seed dispersal agents within their rainforest habitat. This species is entered in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1993 as one of the rarest bats of the world.
Tea estates and dams
Highwavys is a view point that will affort a wonderful view of the entire mountains range of Varasanadu Hills. there few large private tea, spices and coffee plantations.
The Hutton's pitviper Tropidolaemus huttoni(Smith, 1949) is an enigmatic species of venomous snake described from the High Wavy Mountains in 1949. It was described from two juveniles collected by Angus F. Hutton from beneath the leaves of the palm Ochlandra travancorica, locally called "eata". The species has not been recorded since its original description and no adults have yet been found. The most intriguing fact about this piviper is that it belongs to a genus whose other members, the closest living relatives of the Hutton's pitviper, are distributed in the Malayan Peninsula only. This poses serious biogeographical questions.
Arnetta vindhiana, commonly known as the Vindhyan Bob, is a butterfly belonging to the family Hesperiidae. It is native to India.
The vangu or Malabar gray slender loris (Loris lydekkerianus malabaricus) is a subspecies of Gray slender loris that is only found in the Meghamalai region of India. A member of the genus Loris, commonly known as the slender lorises, it is a small, nocturnal primate that is able to live in wet and dry forests, as well as lowland and highland forests. They prefer thick, thorny vegetation wherein they can easily escape predators and find the large assortment of insects that is the mainstay of their diet. The greatest concentrations of these slender lorises are found in the southeastern Ghats of India, a narrow strip of rainforest that runs down the length of western India.
The slender loris is about the size of a chipmunk, with long, pencil-thin arms and legs. It is between 6–10 inches (15–25 cm) long and has a small, vestigial tail. It weighs about 10.5–12 ounces (300–340 g). The slender loris' round head is dominated by two large, closely set, saucer-like brown eyes. They flank a long nose which ends in a heart-shaped knob. The eyes are surrounded by dark-brown to black circles of fur, while the bridge of the nose is white. It has a small, narrow lower jaw. The ears are large and round. Its coat is light red-brown or gray-brown on its back and dirty white on its chest and belly. The fur on its forearms, hands and feet is short. The slender loris has small finger nails on its digits. The second digit on the hand and foot are very short. They move on the same plane as the thumb, which helps them grasp branches and twigs.
The slender loris is an arboreal animal, spending most of its life in trees. Their movements are slow and precise. They like to travel along the top of branches. For the most part they hunt by themselves or in pairs at night, although they will come together and share a food supply. They live alone or with a mate and an infant. By day, they will sleep with up to seven other lorises in a hollow tree or sitting up in the angles of branches. They are very social at dusk and dawn, playing, wrestling and grooming each other.
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