Slender Loris, an endangered animal protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, is set to get enhanced protection and habitat conservation once Tamil Nadu issues a government order declaring the forest areas bordering Karur, Dindigul and Tiruchi districts a Slender Loris Wildlife Sanctuary.
Forest Minister K. Ramachandran recently informed the Assembly that a sanctuary for the endangered species, the first such in Tamil Nadu, would be established to address a long-pending demand.
About 20 years ago, a District Forest Officer visited the Kadavur forest to study the animal. Since it faced major threats such as habitat loss, hunting for the pet trade and road kills, the official felt the need for enhanced protection through a sanctuary. It has finally taken shape.
The animal is largely found in the Eastern Ghats of the Karur and Dindigul Forest Divisions. The average length of the Slender Loris is just 18-26 cm. It weighs 85-350 grams. It eats insects, bird eggs, small lizards and green leaves.
“Being arboreal, Slender Lorises spend most of their life on the trees. Though their movements are slow, they can climb up fast to the tree top when threatened. Their presence is high in umbrella thorn forest and open forest, croplands close to forests and mixed deciduous forests,” says S. Samiyappan, Forester, Kadavur.
The medium to high temperature in the hills in the reserve forests in Karur and Dindigul districts, mainly the Kadavur reserve forest in Karur district, with an elevation of about 1,200 metres from the sea level, is said to be the main reason for the growth of Slender Loris in the region. The lifespan of Slender Loris is about 10 to 12 years in its natural habitat. Among the strange habits they have is the urine washing of their face and limbs, which is said to soothe or defend against the sting of the toxic insects they prefer to eat.
“Except for a few reserve forests in Karur and Dindigul districts, we hardly sight Slender Loris. It is a high time to initiate a number of conservation activities to protect the population,” says V.A. Saravanan, District Forest Officer, Karur.
According to him, the animal is found in eleven reserve forests, including in Edayapatti, Mullipadi, Palaviduthi, Sembinatham and Vaiyamalai in Karur district. It is distributed among the forests of the Kannivadi, Oddanchathiram, Natham and Ayyalur ranges in Dindigul.
To validate the need for declaring the sanctuary, the Forest Department recently drafted the Coimbatore-based Salim Ali Ornithology and Natural History Centre. It conducted a scientific study of the abundance of Slender Loris in 11 reserve forests. As per the census, 974 Slender Lorises were sighted.
Mr. Saravanan said that based on the abundance, compactness, coherence of the forest patches and the contiguity of the forest blocks, 11 forest blocks had been identified and short-listed for declaration of the Slender Loris sanctuary. Forest land to an extent of 11,806.56 hectares had been identified. Similarly, a minimal distance range of 0 to 250 metres from the boundary of the proposed sanctuary would be prescribed as the eco-sensitive zone under the guidelines of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.
It is expected that the Collectors of Karur and Dindigul will soon come out with a notification, inviting the opinion, suggestions, or grievances from those living close to the 11 reserve forests and various stakeholders. Based on the response, the government will issue an order on the declaration of the sanctuary.