Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve among 20 new sites in UNESCO list of biosphere reserves

Date: March 22, 2016

UNESCO The United Nation Lima Kerala

The United Nation's cultural body UNESCO has added 20 new sites, including India’s Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve  in the Western Ghats.The International Coordinating Council added the new sites during a two-day meeting on Saturday in Lima, capital of Peru, bringing the total number of biosphere reserves to 669 sites in 120 countries, including 16 transboundary sites.The newly adopted sites include 18 national site and one transboundary site shared between Spain and Portugal.

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Out of India's 18 biosphere reserves, Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve, the tenth one, has been included in the prestigious UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve Network. Resting half in Kerala and half in Tamil Nadu along the Western Ghats, the reserve is a perfect example of India’s success in preserving and maintaining a forest biosphere.

It covers about 3500 square kilometres, and is part of Tirunalveli and Kankyakumari in Tamil Nadu, and Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Patanamthitta in Kerala. Agastya Mala, the peak after which the reserve is named, rises up to almost 1868 metres above sea level, in Thiruvananthapuram.

With roaring waterfalls, thick green covers, sparkling streams, and chilly atmosphere, parts of the Agasthyamala Reserve are also tourist spots. Humans are allowed only in the buffer zone of the reserve. The peak, which is a two-day trek, is located in the Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary, and is also a popular pilgrimage spot. The forest department allows trekking to the peak only in the months of January and February. A limit of 100 people a day is also kept to ensure that the routes aren’t clogged.

The lush forests provides for three wildlife sanctuaries within the reserve, Shendurney, Peppara, and Neyyar. The Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve was recently included as part of the biosphere reserve. Being Tamil Nadu’s first tiger reserve, it is also one of the most diverse ecosystems in the country. It rains here for almost eight months out of a year. Besides the eponymous tigers, the reserve is also home to Asiatic elephants, Indian bisons, leopards, various species of bats, and over 200 species of birds.