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Mahendragiri Hills in Odisha declared a biodiversity heritage site

Gajapati: The Mahendragiri hill in the Gajapati district has been declared a biodiversity heritage site. Odisha government declared this on Friday to preserve the local habitats rich in plants and animal life.

A notification issued by the Forest, Environment & Climate Change (FE&CC) department read, “The government has been pleased to declare an area of 4250 hectare of Mahendragiri covering two reserve forests (Idongiri and Mahendra) in the district of Gajapati under forest division of Parlakhemundi as the second biodiversity heritage site of Odisha.”

Spread over 544 hectares in Kandhamal district, the Mandasaru Gorge area is Odisha’s first such heritage site notified in 2016.

The decision was taken on the recommendations of the Odisha Biodiversity Board.

Mahendragiri hill is one of the biological, ecological and archaeological important mountain ecosystems in Odisha.

“The hill ecosystem acts as a transitional zone between flora and fauna of Western Ghats and the Himalayan biogeographic zones making the region an ecological estuary of genetic diversities. With increased altitude, the hill complex demonstrates several micro climatic conditions like tropical shola, tropical semi-evergreen, tropical moist-deciduous & tropical dry deciduous,” the notification read.

A total of 1,358 species of plants including 1,042 species of angiosperms under 122 families, 60 species of pteridophytes, 104 species of bryophytes, 53 species of lichens and 72 species of macro-fungi and 2 species of gymnosperms occurring in the hill ecosystem.

In terms of botanically curious plants, 44 species of orchids, eight species of insectivorous plants and more than 300 species of medicinal plants are found in the mountain area.

The hill is an abode of 20 species of threatened medicinal plants ascertained by Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Tradition (FRLHT), Bangalore.

Out of 154 threatened plant species identified for Odisha, at least 60 species are reported to occur here which is ascertained from various scientific publications.

The faunal diversity of the hill consists of 388 species of animals which include 27 species of mammals, 165 species of birds, 60 species herpetofauna (23 species of snakes, 15 species of amphibians, 3 species of turtles, 19 species of lizards), 100 species of butterflies and 36 species of moths.

The hill complex is a critical habitat for Caecilians, Golden Geckos and frogs, 6 species of owls and 3 species of owlet.

Mahendragiri hill plays a pivotal role in maintaining the ecological balance and controlling the climate of the entire south Odisha and Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh.

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