• An invasive species, Senna spectabilis, an exotic tree, has taken over between 800 hectares and 1,200 hectares of the buffer zones of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) in the picturesque Nilgiris hill district.
  • The Forest Department is coming up with a comprehensive strategy to tackle the invasive species, which continues to spread rapidly in the buffer zone.
  • Introduced as an ornamental species and for use as firewood from South and Central America, the species has become highly invasive in the Sigur plateau in both the core and buffer zones of the MTR.

Native species hit

  • Over the last few years, its bright yellow flowers have become more visible across the Tiger Reserve. Conservationists say the invasive weed has a negative effect on local biodiversity, crowding out native species and limiting food availability for wildlife.
  • According to P. Arunkumar, Deputy Director, MTR (Buffer Zone), the Forest Department estimates that the species has spread over 800-1,200 hectares of the buffer zone.
  • Local residents said the species seemed to be spreading faster over the last five years. The Forest Department is still demarcating areas where the species is spreading.
  • According to officials, policy-level discussions are under way on Tamil Nadu Newsprint and Papers Limited (TNPL) plan to use wood from Senna spectabilis from the MTR for paper-making.
  • They said the funds so raised would be used in eco-restoration to bring back native species.
  • Arunkumar said the Forest Department was also formulating a 10-year-plan to systematically remove Lantana camara, the other major weed that poses a threat to biodiversity in both the core and buffer zones of the Tiger Reserve.
  • Senna spectabilis, along with Lantana camara, is among five major invasive weeds that had taken over vast swathes of the Nilgiris, with wattle being the other major invasive species. Eucalyptus and pine, though exotic, do not spread as quickly as the other species and are considered easier to manage, Forest Department officials said.
  • Officials also stated that the Madras High Court was hearing petitions seeking the removal of exotic species, and that judges had inspected the Tiger Reserve this year to monitor the work in this regard.


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