Eravikulam National Park

Eravikulam National Park was managed as a Game Reserve by the Kannan Devan Hill Produce Company till 1971.
The responsibility for the management and protection of the area was vested with the High Range Game Preservation Association, a pioneer Non Governmental organization in this area, which was formed in 1928.
Due to the unique land features, climate and remoteness, this high land attracted the attention of many hunters, naturalists, and scientists.

One of the early European explorers was Col. Douglas Hamilton who described the beauty and grandeur of this area in 1854. Modern settlements began with the establishment of North Travancore Plantation and Agricultural Society in 1879. J.D. Munro, on a hunting expedition in 1877, recognized the possibilities of raising plantations in these ranges and acquired about 227 sq. miles (581.12 sq. km) of land on concession from Poonjat Raja, chief of the local kingdom.

Later, the land was distributed among the members of the society, and cultivation of various plantation crops like coffee and cinchona were tried. It was realized later that, tea was the most suitable crop for this area. The first tea in the High Ranges was planted by Sharp in 1890. Passing through the stress and strain of raising plantations, the members of the society merged and a majority of the estates were transferred to James-Finlay, a European company. Later, extensive cultivation of tea and eucalyptus was carried out by clearing natural vegetation. Apart from cultivation, the English game hunters among the old planters had taken interest in hunting activities and set aside some areas for recreation. The present day Eravikulam National Park was one such area. The game included Nilgiri Tahr, Sambar Deer, Barking Deer, Gaur, Wild Boar, Leopard and Tiger. The area also offered excellent opportunity for angling of ‘Rainbow Trout’ (Salmo gairdnerii) which was introduced from Scotland. The High Range Game Preservation Association was the regulatory body which used to manage such activities with the help of Muthuvan tribals who were employed by them as game watchers. The managers of the nearby estates were appointed as Wardens for managing the various recreational and game areas.

The imperatives of land reforms led to the enactment of the Kannan Devan Hills (Resumption of Lands) Act 1971 by which all lands that were not under cultivation by the company were vested with the Government of Kerala. The Government’s intention was to distribute this land for agricultural purposes. The area under the park was initially earmarked for cattle farming. But because of the timely intervention by an interested group consisting of planters, bureaucrats, naturalists and scientists, the Government of Kerala declared the area as ‘Eravikulam-Rajamalai’ Wildlife Sanctuary in 1975(GO No. 8907/FM/375/AD dated 31-03-1957) for the protection of the Nilgiri Tahr and its habitat. Subsequently, in 1978 it was upgraded to a National Park as per (GO (MS)142/78 dated 19-05-1978). The park was managed as a Range under the Munnar Division and in 1984 it was brought under the Wildlife Warden, Idukki. In the year 1996, a separate Division named Eravikulam National Park Division was formed in the year 1996 with headquarters at Munnar. Now, Eravikulam National Park is one of the six protected areas under the Division, now known as Wildlife Division, Munnar. Over the years, the management of the company changed hands and with the increase in awareness, the game association has redefined its objectives to become High Range Wildlife and Environmental Preservation Association (HRWEPA). The Association now joins hands with the Forest Department in managing the park.

The tourism zone of Eravikulam National Park is known for the close quarter sighting of Nilgiri Tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) and massive flowering of Neelakurinji (Strobilanthus kunthianum) an endemic shrub that flowers once in 12 years. It is the massive flowering of Neelakurinji and the heavy flow of visitors to the National Park in 2006 helped in the introduction of the present visitor management system. Before this, the light vehicles of the visitors were allowed up to the tourism zone, causing blockades, pollution, littering etc in the tourism zone and adjoining areas. The introduction of participatory management and the explosion of visitors to the National Park have brought about paradigm shift in the park management. Now all the management activities including the visitor management and protection including fire protection is carried out with the help of seven EDC’s in the park. This has helped a lot in the management as evident from the reduction in the illegal activities in and around the Park over the last 5 years.