Hillocks around Arittapatti a home for birds


The village is said to be the only place in South India where Laggar Falcon can be spotted

MADURAI

Arittapatti in Melur block, which the Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Board (TNBB) has proposed to declare a ‘Biodiversity Heritage Site’ (BHS), is surrounded by seven hillocks. The hillocks are not only a major source of water, but also home to about 250 species of birds with a high ratio of raptors (birds of prey). The three important raptors among them are Laggar Falcon, Shaheen Falcon and Bonelli’s Eagle.

A. Ravichandran, who heads ‘Ezhumalai Pathukappu Sangam’, which spearheaded the protest against granite sharks and strives to protect the hillocks from their commercial exploitation, calls Lagger Falcon as ‘Aiya’. “Arittapatti is said to be the only place in South India where Laggar Falcon can be spotted,” he says.

Shaheen Falcons, which can travel up to 300 km per hour, has made the hillocks of Arittapatti their home. Bonneli’s Eagle, Indian Spotted Eagle, Booted Eagle, Shikra, White-eyed Buzzard, Indian Eagle Owl and Short-toed Snake Eagle are some of the bird species spotted in this region, he says.

The availability of sufficient water, food and place of stay has made Arittapatti a haven for raptors and other bird species, says Mr. Ravichandran. “For instance, Short-toed snake eagles mainly feed on snakes, which indicate the presence of snakes in the region. The villagers also do not pollute the environment with plastic waste, which makes the hillocks ideal places of stay for the birds,” he says.

Mr. Ravichandran says that the birds augment agricultural wealth in Arittapatti by enriching the waterbodies with their droppings which are used to irrigate farmlands.

District Forest Officer S. Anand says that the place has rich flora. “There are many traditional practitioners of medicine at Arittapatti who use the plants growing in this region. They act as protectors of natural resources,” he adds.

Arittapatti is also known for its Jain vestiges, a Pandya-era rock-cut temple for Lord Siva with a rare sculpture of Lakulisa, a prominent Shaivite revivalist, reformist and preceptor of the doctrine of the Pashupatas, one of the oldest sects of Shaivism.

C. Murugeswari, a resident of Arittapatti who is also a member of ‘Ezhumalai Pathukappu Sangam’, says that the residents consider the hillocks as sacred. “The villagers are keen to protect the hillocks, water sources and the archaeological sites,” she says.

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