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close this bookBiodiversity in the Western Ghats: An Information Kit (IIRR, 1994, 224 p.)
close this folder8. Reptiles, birds and mammals
View the document8.1 Snakes
View the document8.2 Crocodiles
View the document8.3 Birds
View the document8.4 Mammals
View the document8.5 Animal diversity in prehistoric rock-art

8.4 Mammals

Endemic species

The forests of the Western Ghats harbour many different mammals. There are about 60 species, including various endemic and endangered types.

Seven species of mammals are endemic to the Western Ghats. Two primates, the Liontailed Macaque and the Nilgiri Langur, are found only in a few forested patches in the Nilgiri area. The Nilgiri Marten (a weasel) and Nilgiri Tahr (a wild goat) are also found in these areas. The other endemic species are the Malabar Civet and the Grizzled Giant Squirrel, which are restricted to a few patches of the Western Ghats. The Small Travancore Flying Squirrel, a highly endangered species, inhabits the forests of Kerala. Porpoises (marine mammals) occur along the west coast.

Causes of decline

Habitat loss

Animals such as the Lion-Tailed Macaque and Nilgiri Tahr are in danger because of expanding grazing grounds, road construction in the primary forests, and destruction of forest cover.

Poaching and smuggling

Various endangered animals in the Western Ghats are hunted for various parts of their anatomy. Tigers and elephants are poached for their ivory, bones and fur. The Slender Loris is hunted for its eyes- due to a misconception that medicine prepared from the eyes can cure certain eye diseases.

Despite legal bans, poaching and smuggling of skin, fur, bones and ivory is still rampant. The Delhi police seized 162 kg of tiger bones and six skins in one raid in 1993.

Human interference

· Cattle grazing in the buffer zones around the forests spreads disease to wild animals like the gaur.

· Human settlements are encroaching on the forests.

· Vehicles, garbage and effluent discharges pollute the habitat.

· Mining in and near forested areas damages the ecosystem.

· Timber contractors clear large areas of forest.


Heavy tourist pressure in and around the forested areas may disturb the animals

What is a mammal?


· are warm blooded
· breathe air using lungs
· have body hair
· produce milk and suckle their young

There are 370 species of mammals in India.

What is a mammal?


Mammals play an important role in the ecosystem. Predators like the tiger, leopard and wild dog occupy the highest level in the food pyramid. The destruction of a single carnivore like the tiger would upset the balance of the entire forest ecosystem.


· The Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 as amended in 1991 defines and restricts hunting, trading or capture of wildlife.

· Alternate sources of income and other appropriate activities should be encouraged to prevent cattle grazing.

· More viable wild areas should be protected by forming biosphere reserves.

· Pollution control laws should be effectively implemented.

· Effective buffer zones should be created wherever activities detrimental to forests are carried out, especially near sanctuaries and national parks.

· Research is needed on the habits and habitats of animals in the Western Ghats.

· Public awareness should be raised through films, lectures, talks, discussions, nature trails and other methods. Interpretation centres could help orient tourists towards conservation.

· Education programmes such as field trips, camps and treks should be organized for students.

· Awareness programmes should be arranged for local villagers to depict how their ancestors co-existed harmoniously with the forest and to show the dangers to their own survival if they upset the delicate natural balance.

Deliberate or accidental?

In Nagerhole National Park, world-renowned as a wildlife habitat, a massive forest fire in 1993 devastated several hectares of primary forest. It seems the fire was deliberately caused by local villagers to spite an overzealous forest officer who was strictly enforcing the wildlife laws.

Deliberate or accidental?

Endangered, endemic mammals of the Western Ghats

Lion Tailed
Macaque Macaca silenus
Black, shy, canopy dweller;
has cheek pouches; moves in
troops; endangered due to habitat loss.

Macaque Macaca silenus

Malabar Civet
Viverra megaspila
Grey with black markings;
ringed tail; nocturnal;
restricted to coastal areas;
stink gland.

Viverra megaspila

Nilgiri Langur
Presbytis johni
Black faced monkey;
long tail; leaf eater; most hunted
for medicine due to misconception.

Presbytis johni

Grizzled Giant Squirrel
Ratufa macroura
Brownish-grey colour;
shy, canopy dweller; restricted to few areas
of Western Ghats;
endangered due to habitat loss.

Ratufa macroura

Small Travancore
Flying Squirrel
Petinomys fuscocapillus
Nocturnal; restricted to tropical
evergreen forests;
was feared extinct;
recently rediscovered in Kerala.

Petinomys fuscocapillus

Nilgiri Marten
Martes gwatkinsi
Looks like an otter;
hunts on trees;
predatory in habit;
restricted to Nilgiri Hills.

Martes gwatkinsi

Nilgiri Tahr
Hemitragus hylocrius
Mountain goat;
prefers rocky terrain;
found at higher elevations;
hunted for flesh.

Hemitragus hylocrius

Mammals found in the Western Ghats

Liontailed Macaque Macaca silenus Ed,En

Bonnet Macaque Macaca rediata

Common Langur Presbytis entellus

Nilgiri Langur Presbytis johni Ed,En

Slender Loris Loris tardigradus En

Tiger Panthera tigris En

Leopard Panthera pardus En

Leopard Cat Felis bengalensis En

Rustyspotted Cat Felis rubiginosa En

Fishing Cat Felis viverrina En

Jungle Cat Felis chaus En

Malabar Civet Virerra megaspila En,Ed

Small Indian Civet Viverricula indica

Common Palm Civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus

Brown Palm Civet Paradoxurus jerdoni

Common Mongoose Herpestes edwardsi

Ruddy Mongoose Herpestes smith)

Stripednecked Mongoose Herpestes vitticollis

Brown Mongoose Herpestes fuscus

Striped Hyena Hyaena hyaena

Jackal Canis aureus

Indian Wild Dog Cuon alpinus En

Sloth Bear Melursus ursinus En

Common Otter Lutra lutra

Smooth Indian Otter Lutra perspicillata

Clawless Otter Aonyx cineria En

Nilgiri Marten Martes gwatkinsi En,Ed

Indian Tree Shrew Anathana ellioti

Grey Musk Shrew Suncus murinus

Flying Fox Pteropus giganteus

Fulvous Fruit Bat Rouseltus leschenaulti

Shortnosed Fruit Bat Cynopterus sphinx

Bearded Sheath Tailed Bat Taphozous melanopogon

Indian False Vampire Megaderma Iyra

Great Eastern Horseshoe Bat Rhinolophus luctus

Salim Ali Bat Latidens salim alii En

Indian Pipistrelle Pipistrellus coromandra

Painted Bat Kerivoula picta

Indian Giant Squirrel Ratufa indica

Grizzled Giant Squirrel Ratufa macroura En,Ed

Common Giant Flying Squirrel Petaurista petaurista

Dustystriped Squirrel Funambulus sublineatus

Small Travancore Flying Squirrel Petinomys fuscocapillus En,Ed

Threestriped Palm Squirrel Funambulus palmarum

Indian Gerbille Tatera indica

Indian Field Mouse Mos booduga

Whitetailed Wood Rat Ratus blanfordi

Longtailed Tree Mouse Vandeluria oleracea

Common House Rat Rattus rattus

Bandicoot Rat Bandicota indica

Indian Porcupine Hystrix indica

Blacknaped Hare Lepus nigricollis

Indian Elephant Elephas maximus

Gaur Bos gaurus

Nilgiri Tahr En,Ed Hemitragus hylourius

Fourhorned Antelope Tetracerus quadricornis

Chital Axis axis

Sambar Cervus unicolor

Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak

Mouse Deer Tragulus meminna

Indian Wild Boar Sus scrofa

Indian Pangolin Manis crassicaudata

Porpoise Neomeris Ph ocoenoides

En -Endangered
Ed -Endemic

Prepared by R. Bhanumathi