The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, at the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, constitutes arguably one of the finest conservation landscapes in the global range of the tiger. We surveyed the southern part of this region, as well as the adjoining areas, to assess the status of large mammals both within and outside protected areas. Our field assessments suggest that large mammals are almost exclusively confined to protected areas with the few remaining populations outside under severe threat from habitat degradation and poaching. However, large stretches of contiguous forests still remain. We suggest the extension of the recently notified Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu such that connectivity is retained and strengthened with Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary of Karnataka to the north-east and with Silent Valley National Park of Kerala to the south. We also provide suggestions on strengthening conservation in this landscape. The involvement of local communities in the establishment of the Siruvani Conservation Reserve in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and Nilambur Conservation Reserve in Kerala, will bolster the conservation of large mammals in this landscape. With the suggested extension, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve has the potential of becoming arguably the finest habitat for tigers across Asia, given the variations in altitude, topography and climate which produce a diversity of vegetation types and consequently, provide the tiger with an assortment of prey ranging from Nilgiri Tahr in the high altitude montane grasslands to Blackbuck in the low-lying dry deciduous and thorn scrub forests.
Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 107: 77-85