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Swathes of shola grasslands in the blue mountains are likely to hit a purple patch with the expected mass blooming of kurinji flowers (Strobilanthes kunthiana) by winter (2018).
Even as speculation looms large over redrawing the boundaries of Kurinjimala, the only sanctuary in the state being declared for the conservation of the flowering shrub Neelakuriji (Strobilanthes kunthiana), the conservation of the sanctuary in its original extent assumes paramount importance taking into account its geographical peculiarities.
The flower, a hallmark of the Western Ghats, is said to have given The Nilgiris its iconic name.
Location: (Refer map)
The Kurinjimala sanctuary is situated in the middle of:
Anamudi National Park in the northwest,
Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary in the north,
Kodaikkanal Wildlife Sanctuary in the east,
Anamalai Tiger Reserve in the northeast and
Pambadum Shola National Park in the south.
Locations where Neelakurinji grows
Kurinjimala on a topo sheet
Experts believe that Kurinjimala is an important hub between five wildlife protected areas, which include national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, and conserving the sanctuary in its original form is crucial for ensuring connectivity among protected areas for the movement of animals.
Animal movements to Eravikulam National Park from adjacent areas, including Kurisumala, Idalimotta and other places, are common through Kurinjimala.
Few of the related species are highly endangered, especially Strobilanthes ciliates. Their numbers have dwindled due to human interference by way of tea plantations, construction of houses and clearing of forest for agriculture. Steps should be taken to preserve these endangered species from extinction.
In recent years, the blooming cycle that used to take 12 years to complete has reduced to one cycle occurring every three to four years. Climate change, along with the disappearance of much of the plants seed predators, could be one of the reasons for this phenomena.
Climate change could be a stimulative factor for its sporadic flowering, while the decrease in the number of its predators, such as jungle fowl, could also be another contributing factor.
Suggestions to preserve:
The protection of contiguous areas is one of the major objectives during the declaration of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, which is to ensure that landscape level conservation is achieved. And Kurinjimala is such a contiguous area, even if it had not been declared a sanctuary.
The place is important for the survival of meta-populated animals like Nilgir tahr as there should be a corridor for their movements for genetic exchange. This necessitates that the actual area of the sanctuary should be kept intact and we need more areas free from human disturbance
According to experts, ensuring the proper functioning of the ecological process is also an important factor.
Kurinjimala sanctuary is not for Neelakurinji alone. It also provides ecosystem services, which are essential for the people, for the conservation of water, soil and releasing oxygen. Above all, a proper ecosystem is important in mitigating the problem of climate change,
Management objectives for Kurinjimala
To conserve the biological diversity with special emphasis on Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana) and other rare, endangered, threatened and endemic species in the unique high-altitude grassland ecosystem
To maintain the connectivity for movement of animals, especially the long-ranging species such as elephants
To restore and maintain the grassland ecosystem and its associated species
To maintain and improve the watersheds