Unknown Karnataka 2 -- Melukote WLS

Posted by: Suresh K L on

About Melukote: It's a small temple town located in Mandya district of southern Karnataka on top a hill with series of rocky outcrop hills surrounding it. Entering Melukote is like entering into bygone era. Here is a place, where you enter lost world of south Indian temples with priests of Vedic charm. Melukote is the favourite location of South Indian film industry and few Bollywood's films like "Damini". Next to the temple complex is the WLS (49.82 Km2) declared as a sanctuary on 17th June 1974, specifically to protect the wolf. The sanctuary is divided into two blocks, Mudibetta (4.48 km2) and Narayanadurga (45.34 km2). The landscape is rocky, with dry deciduous and scrub vegetation. Being only 45 minutes from my home town, whenever I feel like enjoying history and nature (both being my favorite subjects) in single go, I dash to this place.


Check the following links to know the history of Melukote and Images



Geography: Located in the Mandya district of Southern Karnataka. Altitudes vary from 880 to 1127 m, Temparature range from 17 to 38O C and mean annual rainfall is 700 mm.

Flora: Deciduous scrub forest dominates the area. Cycas circinalis, an endangered gymnosperm, is characteristic of this area.

Fauna: Mammals include Wolf, Blackbuck, Jungle cat, Indian fox, Jackal, wild pig, bonnet macaque.

Highlight of the place:

  • This has the distinction of the southernmost WLS of India dedicated to Wolf.
  • If anyone checks the forest complex of the south southern Karnataka covering some 8 districts, they encircle the land in crescent shape with Tiger as apex predator and Chital as its prey, typical of Indian forests. No other protected forest patch exists in between this crescent except Melukote WLS and is different from others with Wolf being the apex predator and Blackbuck its prey.

Check the following link to know the location of Melukote WLS



  • Apart from the intricately carved temple complexes and caves of Melukote, the hills and surrounding areas are dotted with some 101 manmade lakes and ponds with beautiful sculptures. These were built way back in the history in such a manner that once the lake on higher elevation is filled, the extra water flows automatically towards the next and so on.

Check the following link and download the attachment to know more



  • I used to wonder about the discovery of a rare dinosaurs time plant in the rainforest of Australia and the care they took to protect it. But all the time I was unaware of the fact that there is one such rarest plant of dinosaur's time which can be found just 45 minutes from my home in my own district. The Plant- Cycas circinalis.

Check the following link to know more about Cycas circinalis


Check the following links to know few good efforts helping these forests. https://janapada.net/nene_bana.html%20%0dhttp:/www.mysorenature.org/melkote/melkote-temple-wildlife-sanctuary


  • This forest sits on a ridge of 15-20 kms. On two ends of this ridge, two famous architectural wonders occur. One is Melukote temple complex which has all the potential to become a UNESCO Heritage site and another one is Shravanabelagola complex of lord Bahubali which falls in neighboring Hassan district, is already in the process of getting UNESCO Heritage tag. So the forest which lies in between has a major potential for eco tourism. But thankfully not many people know of its existence. Since the two places of worship belong to 2 different faiths, hardly few travelers enter from one side and reach another through the forest. But locals and state transport buses do use the asphalt road regularly which connects both places.

Glimpse of Mandya district:

Before the construction of the KRS dam near Mysore in 1938, the whole Mandya district was barren land with Ragi being the main crop and dry deciduous scrub forest covering the undulating plains. Then Kavery water from KRS provided irrigation to more than 2/3 of the district turning it into rice bowl of Karnataka. But still Nagamangala taluk on the northern side could not receive the KRS water and retained original flora and fauna with fringes of KR pet and Pandavapura taluks adding to it. (Point to remember: Karnataka is the second driest state in India after Rajasthan, being in the rain shadow area of Western Ghats). That was the place where Wolves and Blackbuck were running wild even during the 1970's. Then the idea of WLS got its boost and Melukote Wolf Sanctuary was born. Later years saw the waters of river Hemavathy being channeled to Nagamangala taluk improving the standard of living of humans there by islanding the WLS and cutting its connectivity with other populations of Wolves and Blackbucks from nearby districts like Tumkur.

Present Reality about Melukote Wolf Sanctuarly:

Wolf disappeared during 1980-90's.

 Reason-Forest department thought that green covering of protected area will help boost the animal numbers, so the scrub open forest was replaced with fast growing trees of both and native and introduced type. Thick tree cover helped the Leopard to take over the forest with wolf and blackbucks entering fields and getting persecuted by man. No more sighting of wolf from past 15 years. Now a small number of Leopards call these forests as their home but without any prey species apart from wild pig, raid on villages for domestic animals is common.

Only a small herd of 30- 40 Blackbuck survives

Reason-No more open space for fast moving antelopes. Now a small herd near the forest fringe is said to raid farmer's fields during early morning and evening and returning to forest for the rest of the day. Apart from people from forest department and few interested, nobody seems to know of their existence in our district. I myself made a trip to Mydanahalli Blackbuck sanctuary in Tumkur district some 10 years back to see them, not knowing of their existence in my own district.

Local ecology lost

Reason-slowly the definition of forest is being understood by forest department. They have decided not to plant any more exotics like Eucalyptus in this forest and other reserves of Karnataka. But as per this sanctuary the irreversible damage has already been done. I don't know how it looked when Wolf and Blackbuck were still roaming. But surely there are considerable amounts of lands around the wildlife sanctuary, where there is considerable amount of original scrub forest patches thanks to their status as reserved forest or either being cleared by human activities or under revenue department.

What could be done?

  • Keeping present boundary for Leopards and introducing proper prey species for Leopards, such as Chital. But since this sanctuary is completely surrounded by villages and Mandya district being well known for non-vegetarianism and not to follow the law of land; task of safeguarding herbivores will be a great challenge.
  • Increasing the size of the sanctuary area. There are still many intact patches of original vegetation type available around the sanctuary towards Nagamangala and Mandya which will help in future introduction of wolf.
  • There are good forest corridors running from this sanctuary. All these corridors are formed on continuous small undulating hill ranges planted with Eucalyptus but having good grassy open spaces in many places. One such corridor reaches Bangalore-Mysore state highway some 35kms from WLS and then moves further towards Karighatta hill & Chamundi hill of Mysore. I enquired few locals in one such place where sugarcane field's ends and dry lands take over with good amount of bald hilly area under reserve forest near to Mandya town itself and was amused that they know Blackbucks very well and even claimed their presence. With ban on Eucalyptus, proper removal of Eucalyptus will help Blackbucks to have their own highway all along these corridors.
  • Although efforts to help declare Melukote and nearby Thonnur lake complex as UNESCO Heritage site was initiated by District Authority 2 years back, nothing was achieved further. UNESCO tag to these archeological sites will surely help WLS in many ways.