Ian Lockwood


On the Southern Rim of the Palanis (Part I)

with 4 comments

Looking east as mist flows up over the bluffs between Ibex Peak and Ibex Cliff. The shola/grasslands mosaic is quite intact though there are invasions of Pinus sp. on the grasslands.

To anyone who knows the southern Western Ghats it is incredulous that they are frequently referred to as “hills” rather than mountain ranges.  All of the large ranges in the Nilgiri, Palani, Anaimalai, Highwavy and Ashumba ranges have cliff faces, peaks and escarpments that make them anything but “hills.”  I was reminded of this over the summer when I had a chance to revisit the southern escarpment of the Palani Hills on a series of treks and camping trips.  The treks involved revisiting areas that I had hiked to, both as a student at KIS and wondering soul in subsequent years.  On the 2011 trips I teamed up with friends from school and the Vatakanal Conservation Trust to try to provide a brief assessment on the state of native grasslands. What we found was both illuminating and alarming. The cliff area between Kodaikanal and the Kerala border remains one of the most outstanding scenic landscapes in the Western Ghats. However, the invasion of native grasslands by self-seeding non-native tree species is happening at a faster-than-expected pace. As a result the area’s sublime ecology is in danger from disturbance that will be too great to reverse if some sort of restoring action is not taken.

To date, much of the Palani Hills is under “reserve forest” which affords the range with basic protection but not the kind of glamour, finances and support from state agencies and non-governmental organizations that nearby wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and project tiger reserves get. Complicating factors like the booming tourist industry in Kodaikanal, the presence of large-scale non-native plantations and significant anthropocentric impacts in some areas have made notification difficult.  Efforts to get the Palanis notified continue at the state and national level and have been a subject of online documentation.  Some of these points were highlighted in my 2003 Frontline article “on the danger list.” Now nearly 10 years later I am interested in exploring issues that would contribute to better conservation of this area’s landscapes and biodiversity.

Morning light on the cliffs by Ibex Peak, looking westwards and down to Bodinakyakunur. The monsoon is active over Bodimetu and the Cardamom Hills. Agamalai is in the far left (east) of the panorama.

Two views of the ramparts of Ibex Peak, at 2516 meters, the 2nd highest mountain in the Palani Hills. True to the misnamed origin of the peak it appears to be an ideal refuge for Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius). We found plenty of pellet evidence and then observed from a distance two herds of 7-14 animals in the vicinity.

Abstract formations at Ibex Cliff shelter a herd of Nilgiri tahr (not visible in this image).

Wild flowers in the grasslands and cliffs near Ibex Peak. (yet to be itendified and Asyneuma fulgaris)

First light on Twin Peaks seen from the escarpment between Ibex Peak and Cliff.

Maps highlighting the southern escarpment of the Palani Hills. The maps above shows the cliff area and is modified from Google Maps while the one below shows the Nilgiri, Palani and Anaimalai ranges (created on Arcmap 10 and Globalmapper).

Bruce watching the last light of the day on a grassy ridge overlooking Bodi.

Written by ianlockwood

2011-09-12 at 5:07 pm

4 Responses

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  1. LOVE IT!! I wish I knew those ranges as intimately as you do!

    Timothy Miller

    2011-09-12 at 9:11 pm

  2. Cool pictures, man! I had no idea there was an invasion of penis on the grasslands! 🙂


    2011-09-13 at 12:34 pm

  3. Fascinating!


    2011-09-21 at 10:11 am

  4. […] status of the ecology in the upper Palani Hills. Some of the observations were published in earlier blog posts but Bob, Tanya and I were also looking to reach a broader audience.  Frontline, with the able […]

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