In Kerala about 28.90% of the total land area is covered by forests. The total forest area may be around 11,125.59 sq.km which comes under reserve forests, proposed reserve and the vested forest. The forest area in Kerala is near the Western Ghats which lies in the border of the state. Of the total recorded forest area, the actual forest area is just 9400 sq.km.
The forest area of Kerala is spread over the Western Ghats which is one of the world’s hot spots of bio-diversity. It is rich in a wide variety of rare and endangered flora and fauna. The forest area in the southern districts of Kerala constitutes about 51% and the remaining percent is in the central and northern districts. The main districts which are covered by forests are Idukki and Pathanamthitta districts. The district with no area under forest is Alappuzha.
The government has taken various steps for conserving the forest and wildlife. They have already banned the cutting down of trees in 1983. With the help of organizations such as World Bank, the government has also started various programmes for afforestation of the forests which includes Community afforestation, compensatory afforestation and general forestry programmes.
There are 5 National Parks in Kerala namely Silent Valley National Park, Eravikulam National Park, Paampadum Shola National Park, Aanamudi Shola National Park and Mathikettaan Shola National Park. There are also 11 Wild life Sanctuaries, 2 Bird Sanctuary and a Tiger Reserve called the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala. During the 19th century about 75% of Kerala was covered by forest which was then reduced to 50% by 20th century. To avoid this degradation of forests, a large area of forest has been brought under Reserve Forest.
In the forests of Kerala we can find many rare and magnificent wild life like the wild Elephant, Tiger, Panther, Indian Bison, Nilgiri tahr etc. The Silent Valley National Park has the endangered Lion-Tailed Macaques. Besides these the wildlife population also includes Gaur, Spotted Deer, Sambar, the endangered Giant Grizzled Squirrel, Hanuman Langur, Sloth Bear, Flying Squirrels, jungle cat, wild boar, a variety of monkey species, Leopards, Wolves, Wild Dogs, Civet Cats etc.
There are also a wide variety of different species of birds like hornbill, darters, cormorants, Peacock, oriels, racket-tailed bulbuls, kingfishers, woodpeckers, Ceylon frogmouth, parakeets, ducks etc. Many migratory birds also visit Kerala every year.
Kerala has a variety of vegetation and forest types. The different forest types of Kerala are Tropical Wet Evergreen Forests, Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests, Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests, Mountain Sub Tropical, Rolling Grasslands, Shola Forest, Thorny Scrub Forest, high Sholas etc. As there are a wide variety of forest types, it helps in the growth of a rich variety of flora. The trees of the Tropical Dense Evergreen Forests include White Pine, Punnappa, Bhadraksham, Palai, Maravuri, Vayana etc. The trees in Moist Deciduous Forest include Teak, Maruthi, Karimaruthi, Rosewood, Vengal, Chadachi, Mazhukanjiram etc. Besides these trees there are also many species of flowering, medicinal and non-flowering plants.
Forest Products and Revenue
The major source of raw material to the forest based industries is from the forest plantations. The major species grown is the Teak together with mixed plantations and eucalyptus. The main forest produce are timber, bamboo, reeds and firewood.