Western Ghats, India

Running along the entire west coast of India, the mountains of the Western Ghats are no snow-peaked Himalayas. But what they lack in height they make up for in biodiversity, harbouring an impressive array of India’s wildlife.
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Western Ghats, India.
© Ameen Ahmed

A biodiversity hotspot

More like rolling hills than snow-covered mountains, the Western Ghats - stretching some 1,600km from the north of Mumbai to the southern tip of India - are a biodiversity hotspot that contains a large proportion of the country's plant and animal species; many of which are only found here and nowhere else in the world.
In the northern part of the range, about one-third of the plants, almost half the reptiles, and more than three-fourths of the amphibians known in India are found in this narrow strip of rainforest just off the west coast.

The forests in the southwestern Ghats are even richer, hosting the country’s largest population of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) as well as Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris), lion-tailed macaques (Macaca silenus), sloth bears (Ursus ursinus), nilgiri tahrs (Hemitragus hylocrius) and much more.

Mounting threats

The Western Ghats were once covered in dense forests. Today, a large part of the range has been logged or converted to agricultural land for tea, coffee, rubber and oil palm, or cleared for livestock grazing, reservoirs and roads.

The growth of populations around protected areas and other forests has also led to habitat destruction, increased fragmentation, wildlife poaching and human-wildlife conflict.

Whestern Ghats - Where do we work ?

 / ©: WWF-International
WWF is working in the Western Ghats area highlighted in blue on the map above.

Wildlife conservation in the Ghats

 / ©: WWF-India / Vijay Kumar
Tiger in Moyar Valley, Nilgiris District, India.
© WWF-India / Vijay Kumar
The largest population of Asian elephants in the world still roams free across southwestern India.
It is estimated that as many as 10,000 elephants can be found in the Nilgiri Hills, in the southwestern part of the Western Ghats.

This region is also home to 10% of the world's tigers, making it an important area for the long-term conservation of this endangered species.

As part of its efforts to conserve elephants, tigers and other wildlife, WWF is working in this unique part of India to:
  • maintain the ecological integrity of forest corridors
  • reduce conflict between wildlife and people
  • bolster anti-poaching efforts in protected areas

The Western Ghats' Nilgiris Mountains still offer safe refuge to diverse wild creatures in pockets which we must somehow protect from all harm. This, after all, is where India’s largest Asian elephant populations can still be seen.

Dr Amirtharaj Christy Williams, Coordinator of WWF’s Asian Rhino and Elephant Action Strategy

Facts & Figures

    • The Western Ghats are one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots with over 5,000 flowering plants, 139 mammals, 508 birds and 179 amphibian species.
    • At least 325 globally threatened species occur here.
    • The range covers 60,000km2 and forms the catchment area for a complex of river systems that drain almost 40% of India.
    • At 2695m, Mt Anamudi in Kerala, India is the highest peak in the Western Ghats.
    • The Western Ghats are being considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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