Nestled within the lofty Cardamom Hills, which forms part of the Western Ghats UNESCO World Heritage Site, lies the picturesque town of Munnar in Kerala. Lush green tea gardens carpet the rolling hills of the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot, interspersed by coffee and cardamom plantations. Groves of eucalyptus, black wattle and acacia – trees grown for firewood and timber – are peppered within these plantations.
Patches of shola forests – stunted tropical montane forests which once covered all these hills – lie scattered across the landscape as remnants of the past. Today, forests blanket just over half of Idukki, the district where Munnar is located, and are mostly found inside protected areas, including Eravikulam National Park, Anamudi Shola National Park, and Periyar National Park.
The cloud-kissed hills and verdant valleys of idyllic Munnar beckon many wanderlusts with love for nature. But as tourism booms in the town and around, roads, electric lines and other infrastructure have mushroomed, and forested land is increasingly encroached upon to make way for more resorts and plantations.
While protected areas provide a safe haven to charismatic animals, like the elephants (Elephas maximus indicus) that often wander into tea plantations or the endemic Nilgiri tahrs (Nilgiritragus hylocrius), tiny frogs and toads – often inconspicuous but highly diverse .