Forest First Samithi

THT Action Grant 2023

Project Name:

Restoration of Degraded Critical Elephant Habitat by Supporting Local Livelihoods

Project Brief:

Tholpetty Range is part of the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in Western Ghats part of Kerala. It is the connecting corridor for large number of elephants from Nagarhole National Park in adjacent Karnataka to reach Kabini reservoir during peak summer months. These east sloping, moist deciduous forests and its grasslands are home to species including elephants, tigers, gaurs, spotted deer and critically endangered White-rumped and Red-headed Vultures.

The spread of alien exotic Senna spectabilis is a serious conservation and management challenge in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary particularly due to the allelopathic traits of the species that prevent native plants including grass from growing under it. Tholpetty range has some of the oldest Senna trees, and approximately 40% of the Tholpetty range has been affected by invasive Senna spectabilis and Lantana camara. Dense invasion of Senna spectabilis is fast turning forest lands into “Green deserts”. This has also reduced fodder availability for wildlife. Kerala Forest Department is actively involved in girdling Senna spectabilis in the region. While fruiting and flowering is affected by girdling, the tree is found to coppice from the lateral roots thus reducing the potential for native grass and other flora to thrive.

Forest First Samithi has worked on this landscape since 2020 and works on an alternate approach of manually uprooting the Senna spectabilis tree completely thus restoring grass and native flora. Their technique of Senna spectabilis and Lantana camara removal is already restoring large areas of grasslands and establishing naturally regenerated tree saplings, and their work has received accolades from the Kerala Forest Department for its effectiveness.

Project objectives:
  • 10 Acres of invasive Senna spectabilis eradication will lead to revival of native grass and shrubs within one year thus mitigating human animal conflicts
  • 25 Acres of invasive Lantana camara eradicated saplings through assisted natural regeneration that will enable better establishment of saplings in one year along with native grass thus mitigating human animal conflicts
  • 15 Acres planted with 50 species of native and/or RET flora available for larger biodiversity after 5-10 years
  • Availability of 25 native floral species in nurseries managed by Forest First Samithi through local seed sprouting enabling restoration
  • Involve tribal communities in every activity of habitat restoration for building social capital and improving traditional ecological knowledge thus creating local stewards in forest conservation
  • Measurement, monitoring, reporting and documentation for replicability and improvement of processes followed
Highlights from the field:
  • This project is ongoing