Tuesday 26 February 2013

The wildlife sanctuary of Melkote

Many readers of the blog and friends of mine have asked me whether they have to go nearly 600 kilometres to Gulbarga to see the Indian wolves. They were referring to the previous post where I had mentioned about the Chilcholi wildlife sanctuary where wolves and hyenas are found in sufficient numbers.
Well, in case you do not want to go so far to Gulbarga, you can see both the se animals-wolves and  hyenas a little away from the Bangalore Mysore highway.
What is more this sanctuary off the highway is also a well-known pilgrim centre and a trekker’s delight. Moreover, it is so well connected by busses that connectivity is never a problem from Bangalore, Mysore, Mandya, Maddur, Ramanagar and several other places in Karnataka and even Taml Nadu.
This is so as the pilgrim place is one of the holiest of Srivaishnava shrines and it provided shelter to the great Srivaishnava scholar Ramanujacharya.
Yes, this is Melkote in Mandy district, an important place for Srivaishnavas. The Cheluvanarayamaswamy temple of Melkote is famous  all over India and it is one of the most magnificent temples of its kind.
However, not many know that just a few kilometers from the temple is a wildlife sanctuary, the first of its kind in India, for the endangered wolves.
Called the Melkote Temple Wildlife Sanctuary, it is a protective area for wolves and it comprises of  two hills or blocks called Mudibetta and the Narayandurga. Unlike the forest at Chincholi, the Melkote forest cover is dense and it is home to several several animals like leopard, jungle cat, Indian fox, spotted deer, black-buck, leopard, bonnet macaque, langur, pangolin and wild pig.
Of course, you can spot the elusive wolf. The ideal time to visit the sanctuary is between October and April.
The sanctuary was created in June 1974 and its is one of the earliest of such covers for the wolf. It is stretched over an area of 49.82 square kms. The hill range of Mudibetta is smaller and the sanctuary covers 4.48 sq kma here, while the Narayanadurga Betta covers 45.34 sq kms. There are a few villages between these two hills and the land too is cultivated.
The highest point here is Gavikallu Betta or Karikallu gudda which rises to a height of 1127 metres in the south. Mudi Betta is 1065 metres high and Narayana Durga, 1094 metres in height. There are several other peaks in the sanctuary and also around Melkote.
There are also more than two dozen water bodies in and around the Sanctuary.
By the way, one of the rare species of flora fond here is Cycas Circinalis. It has been given a new name as C Swami after the famous botanist  Prof. B.G.L. Swamy, son of  Kannada laureate D. V. Gundappa.
This is an endangered gymnosperm that is being threatened with extinction, thanks to flower decorators and local village doctors. Other important botanical species are Shorea roxburghii  that exists  around Narayana Durga hillock. Terminalia chebula, Chloroxylon swietenia, Anogeissus latifolia, Santalum album and Memecylon spp have also been recorded in the sanctuary.’
The sanctuary is quite rich in bio-diversity supporting rare species like Memecylon spp (plant), Southern Rustic (butterfly), Bamboo Pit Viper (snake), Brown Rock Pipit (resident bird), and Ultramarine Flycatcher (migratory bird).
There are more than 110 different species of  butterflies found here and it was surprising to see that the Southern rustic was seen here. This butterfly is native only to Western Ghats and it is not known to move so far away from its natural habitat. Another butterfly that is very common here is Monkey Puzzzle. Even this species being found here in large numbers is a bit of a puzzle.
Orinthologists have recorded 190 species of birds in the sanctuary.     
Other than this location, Brown Rock Pipit is found in Ramanagar hills, Ramanagar District and Ultramarine Flycatcher in Nandi hills, Chikkaballapur District. 
If you are lucky, you can spot the rare Changeable Hawk Eagle. Others birds to be seen here are Sirkeer Cuckoo Phaenicophaeus leschenaultia  and Brown Rock Pipit Anthus similis. Migratory birds such as Indian Blue Robin Luscinia brunnea , Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula, Ultramarine Flycatcher Ficedula superciliaris are also seen here.
Orinthologists will be thrilled to note that the small Pratincole Glareola which bred at Talkad near T. Narasipura in neighbouring Mysore district , can be found here in secluded locations.
The Little-ringed Plover also breeds in the many water holes here. 
The sanctuary is about five kms from Melkote town  
Mandya is just 35 kms away, Bangalore 140 km and Mysore 55 kms away. There are frequent bus services from all these cities to Melkote. The nearest train stop would be Mandya.   


  1. Informative article Samyuktha. Could you also provide more information about how to enter the sanctuary, how much is entry fees etc.

    Best Regards,

  2. Thanks Mr. Sirish for the compliment. The Melkote sanctuary is best visited between October and April and the easiest access is from Melkoite itself or rather from the Melkote temples. However, you will not be permitted to enter the reserved forests. They remain out of bounds for public. You can go around the forests ringing the reserved belt and the Range Forest Officer in Melkote town will be able to help you. There is no entry fee to the forests outside the santuary.
    You can also contact the Dy Conservator of forests on telephone 91 821 2481159 for more details.
    Email: dcfwlmys@yahoo.com

    1. Thank you so much Samyuktha. I am planning to visit it next week if time permits. Other places on the list are Adichunchungiri, Kokkre-bellur and Ranganathittu.

      I was really keen on visiting Melkote for wolves photography. But changed my priority as per Suresh KL (next post) information of no wolves at Melkote.

      Thank you so much for Dy Conservators contact number. I will call him before I decide my plan.

      Thank you and best regards,

  3. There are no Wolves in Melukote anymore. Last seen was in 1985. Because forest department planted more trees to improve greenery, Leopard took over the landscape and local villages put their share in killing Wolves. Now only a few Blackbuck's survive, may be 10, not seen by any but a few lucky locals and no wildlife sighting is guaranteed because there are no large mammals present in WLS other than elusive Leopard which prey on nearby village dogs.

    1. This is terribly sad :-(

      thank you for the information Suresh.

  4. This is super staff. Melkote – the picturesque temple town of Karnataka with breathtaking scenic beauty and a bracing climate is a popular centre of pilgrimage, specially for Vaishnavites. For all the latest and up-to-date information on Melkote Tour log on to: http://easytouristguide.com/off-beat-tourist-places/melkote-temple-town-of-karnataka.html