Deep inside the dark green forests of Goodrickal at Ranni, there are a couple of patches of land that serve as a hub of trees with a brown-and-white mottled appearance called gophers ( Nageia wallichiana), these trees belong to a fabled species – one that has even found a mention in the Bible.
- These locations, at Thirukuthi and Kadamankunnu, form the centrepiece of an effort by authorities to offer an optimum habitat for the rare species that has been on the brink of extinction.
- Found only in a few parts of the world, the gopher trees were believed to have been used by the Biblical patriarch Noah to build the ark to survive the great deluge.
- However, beyond this biblical connection, the species assumes a botanical significance for maintaining a strict habitat integrity.
- In India, these trees grow only in pure, evergreen forests to the South of the Palakkad Gap on the Western Ghats.
- Called Nirampalli in local parlance, the gopher trees once had widespread distribution across a vast area of contiguous forests from the Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu to the Achencoil forests and the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) and then at the Mankulam forest division.
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