Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve is the 17th and Southern most Tiger Reserve in India and one of the four Tiger Reserves in Tamil Nadu. The tiger Reserve forms part of the South Western Ghats. It also forms part of the interstate Agasthiyarmalai Biosphere Reserve, which includes three sanctuaries namely Kalakad Sanctuary, Mundanthurai Sanctuary and part of Kanyakumari Sanctuary as well as part of Nellai Wildlife Sanctuaries in Tamil Nadu and spreads over an area of 1601.542 sq. km. It is a home for various endemic and endangered species of flora and fauna. It is the natural source of water for 4 districts viz Tirunelveli, Tuticorin, Kanyakumari and Virudhunagar. This Tiger Reserve is the source of origin for as many as 14 rivers and is rightly known as the "River Sanctuary" of Tamil Nadu. These rivers also feed numerous tanks in the plains which are home to several birds and fishes. There are 11 dams in and around Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve catering to agricultural and drinking water needs of the four districts. This Tiger Reserve supports three hydroelectric power stations at Papanasam, Servalar and Upper Kodayar. The terrain is highly intricate and undulating with several valleys, with porous, red and black soil.
Mundanthurai Wildlife Sanctuary was declared as the Nation’s first Tiger sanctuary in 1962 vide G.O.Ms.No.2556 Food and Agriculture Department dated 02.08.1962 under the Wild Birds and Animal Protection Act 1912 primarily for the conservation of Tiger much before the focus of Tiger at the National level. Kalakad Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1976 vide G.O Ms No.183 Forest and Fisheries Department dated.06.03.1976 primarily to give protection to the endangered lion-tailed macaque. Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve was formed by combining the two sanctuaries of Kalakad and Mundanthurai during April 1988 vide G.O.I letter no. F-26-9/88-WL1 dated 06.04.1988.
Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve buffer zone is a 05 km belt of revenue villages, hamlets, etc all along its Eastern boundary, 3528 Ha. in the Northern boundary in Nellai Wildlife Sanctuary and 20132 Ha. in Southern boundary in Kanyakumari Wildlife Sanctuary. An area of 706.542 sq.km is covered under this zone. This area includes 241 hamlets. Agriculture is the main profession in the buffer zone of KMTR. All the watersheds from where the rivers originating and irrigating the lands in the buffer zone are from the Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. Any adverse factors affecting these forests will also affect the agriculture in the buffer zone. The agriculture in the buffer zone directly linked with the status of the forests. The biological and ecological values are assessed from the bio-diversity of Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, its bio-diversity hot spot on global scans.
The total area of KMTR is 1601.542 sq.km. that includes 895.000 sq.km of core/ critical tiger habitat and 706.542sq.km of buffer zone / peripheral area.