Melkote Temple Wildlife Sanctuary (49.82 sq. km) is situated in Mandya district. This was declared as sanctuary on 17th June 1974 specifically to protect the habitat of Grey Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes). Sanctuary is named after the famous Melkote temples situated on the border of the sanctuary. The sanctuary comprises of two zones, Mudibetta (4.48 sq. km) and Narayandurga (45.34 sq. km). There are few villages between the two zones, and surrounding area is cultivated. The landscape is rocky, with Tropical dry deciduous and scrub vegetation.
It is located in Mandya district, the major area from 12°37 to 12°44'N latitude and 46°34' to 76°39'E longitude and the other from 12°41' to 12°43'N latitude and 76°39' to 76°41'N longitude. Altitude varies from 880 to 1127 m, the highest point being Gavikallu Betta (aka Karikallu gudda), 1127 m in the south. Mudi Betta, 1065 m; Narayana Durga, 1094 m are the other peaks situated in the Sanctuary. Adjoining, temple range is 1069 m height, where famous temple is situated. Not less than two dozen water bodies can be counted in and around the Sanctuary. Temperatures range from 17° to 38°C, and the mean annual rainfall is 621 mm.
Fig: Impenetrable vegetation in valley Fig: Melkote in good rainy season
Tropical dry land scrub forest dominates the area. Once abundant Cycas circinalis (now, updated as a new species, C. swamyi after famous botanist Prof BGL Swamy, son of Kannada laureate DV Gundappa), an endangered gymnosperm is faced with extinction from flower decorators and local village doctors. Shorea roxburghii exists sporadically within the sanctuary around Narayana Durga hillock. Important species that have been recorded here are Terminalia chebula, Chloroxylon swietenia, Anogeissus latifolia, Santalum album and Memecylon spp.
Fig: Cycas circinalis Fig: Cycas reproductive organ
Fig: Caralluma umbellatum Fig: Shorea roxburghii in flower
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). Other than this location, Brown Rock Pipit is found in Ramanagar hills, Ramanagar District and Ultramarine Flycatcher in Nandi hills, Chikkaballapur District.
Sanctuary supports 110 species of butterflies. Following table provides family-wise comparison of Melkote butterflies with Indian, and peninsular diversity. Southern Rustic butterfly was recorded here, away from its known habitat- western ghat complex bordering our observation zone. This is the first of its kind in Mysore Area. Another interesting observation is that Butterfly, Monkey Puzzle has been recorded almost on all parts of the sanctuary. Normally its distribution is area specific. Congregation of Danaid butterflies is common in thick shrubs near wet patches and valleys during their migration period.
Fig: Danaids congregation
Sanctuary and its adjoining water-bodies supports 199 species of birds. Presence of Oriental White-backed Vulture Gyps bengalensis, Long billed Vulture Gyps indicus and endemic Yellow-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus xantholaemus is instrumental in declaring the Sanctuary as an Important Bird Area. A soiled egg and aborted nest of Long billed Vulture was recorded by Sumanas Kaulagi in 2007. In recent years, both the Vultures are not met with.
Fairly healthy population of Yellow-throated Bulbuls still exists. Changeable Hawk-Eagle is sighted infrequently. Sanctuary is supporting rare resident birds like, Sirkeer Cuckoo Phaenicophaeus leschenaultia & Brown Rock Pipit Anthus similis. Interesting migratory birds recorded has a long list - Indian Blue Robin Luscinia brunnea , Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula, Ultramarine Flycatcher Ficedula superciliaris, etc.,
Record of Small Pratincole Glareola lacteal breeding at Talkad near T. Narasipura in neighbouring Mysore district (Worth 1951) is no more exists. However, breeding is recorded in least disturbed locations in secluded water bodies adjoining Melkote sanctuary. These water bodies support foraging resident as well migratory water-birds. Little-ringed Plover also breeds here.
It seems there is an error in location name as ‘Nelamangalam’ (which is located near Bangalore) instead of Nagamangala, Mandy district in the paper associated to Great Indian Bustard, described as, ‘One was shot by Mr. Van Ingen near Nelamangalam (40 miles distant from Mysore City) in early January 1940 (Ali, S. & H. Whistler. 1942-43).
Phythian-Adams (1940) has suggested, in order to save Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigricepsin, a rare bird in all parts of its habitat at that period, from extinction for complete protection both from professional snares and sportsmen. After over half a century, Karanth (1986) mentioned Jakkanahlli-Nagamangala (Mandya) as one of the probable Bustard habitats. This Bustard probable habitat mentioned by Phythian-Adams (1940) & Karanth (1986) were investigated thoroughly but the result is negative, as on today.
Fig: Yellow-throated Bulbul by Goutham
Presently, it is observed that 12 species recorded in 1940’s (Ali & Whistler, 1942-43; Phythian-Adams, 1940) are not recorded during the current observation period in entire Mysore area. Forest stretches that were contiguous and healthy have disappeared/ disintegrated driving them away or restricted their movement within the available habitat. Similarly, vast grass lands disappeared in order to support growing population causing Painted Sandgrouse Pterocles indicus Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps, Lesser Floricon Sypheotides indica to fade away from Melkote-Jakkanahalli-Nagamangala area.