India is home to the world’s largest population of wild tigers, Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve is the 17th Tiger reserve in India which has been listed under the Type –I Tiger conservation unit in the Indian sub-continent and Mundanthurai is the Nation’s first Tiger Sanctuary declared almost a decade prior to the launch of Project Tiger, established in the year 1988 by unifying the Mundanthurai Tiger Sanctuary (1962) and Kalakad Wildlife Sanctuary (1976), the latter on was declared a Sanctuary after studies by noted biologist, Stephen Green on the critically endangered Lion Tailed Macaque. Situated at the tail end of the Southern Western Ghats, the reserve is home to some of the most unique floral and faunal species endemic to the area which served as an ecological benchmark attracting several researches. The reserve now encompasses a core area of 895.39 sq. km. The contiguous tract of wet evergreen forests extends to an area of about 400 sq. km. The undulated topography with dry deciduous foothill forests slowly changing to rugged mountains with classic wet evergreen forests, indeed is one of the largest patches of non-equatorial rain forests in the world. The buffer area includes forested area (not under administrative control) to the south and the north and non forested areas along the eastern boundary spreading across an area of 706 sq. km. The forested buffer comprises of 35.9 sq kms of Nellai Wildlife Sanctuary and 201 sq. km of part of Kanyakumari Wildlife Sanctuary. The eastern non forested buffer comprises of 241 hamlets within the 5 km belt all along the boundary of the reserve.
Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve is a super hotspot of biodiversity and it is also a global heritage of biodiversity, Forming a part of the inter-state (Kerala and Tamil Nadu) Agasthiyarmalai Biosphere Reserve. This part of Agasthiyarmalai hills in the core of KMTR is considered one of the five centres of biodiversity and endemism in India by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Western Ghats, Agasthiyarmalai Sub-Cluster, including all of Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, has been declared as the UNESCO’s Natural World Heritage in the year 2012.
In the Agasthyarmalai region, the pattern of high endemism and diversity is well illustrated by plant taxa. This region has about 150 localized plant endemics and a rich reservoir for a large number of wild relatives of cultivated plants such as cardamom, mango, banana, rice, jackfruit and turmeric.