Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The altitude of the Nilgiris results in a much cooler wetter climate than the surrounding plains, and so the area is popular as a retreat from the summer heat. The rolling hills of the Downs look very similar to the Downs in Southern England, and were used for similar activities such as hunting.
The principal town of the area is Udhagamandalam, although the old British name of Ootacamund, shortened to Ooty, is often used. In the town there are many buildings which look very "British", in particularly the Churches. There is a road junction known as Charing Cross (a well known place in London).
There are several tribes living in the Nilgiris, whose origins are uncertain. The best known of these are the Toda people, whose culture is based upon cattle, and whose red, black and white embroidered shawls, and silver jewelry is much sought after.
There is a railway running from Mettupalayam to Udhagamandalam via Coonoor, which is a great tourist attraction. It was used in the film A Passage to India as the railway to the caves. It is a rack-and-pinion railway as far as Coonoor.
Two ecoregions cover portions Nilgiris. The South Western Ghats moist deciduous forests lie between 250 and 1000 meters elevation. these moist deciduous forests extend south along the Western Ghats range to the southern tip of India. These forests are dominated by a diverse assemblage of trees, many of whom are deciduous during the winter and spring dry season. These forests are home to the largest herd of Asian Elephants in India, who range from the Nilgiris across to the Eastern Ghats. The Nilgiris and the South Western Ghats is also one of the most important tiger habitats left in India.
The South Western Ghats montane rain forests ecoregion covers the portion of the range above 1000 meters elevation. These evergreen rain forests are among the most diverse on the planet. Above 1500 meters elevation, the evergreen forests begin to give way to stunted forests, called sholas, which are interspersed with open grassland. These grasslands are the home to the endangered Nilgiri tahr, which resembles a stocky goat with curved horns. The Nilgiri tahrs are found only in the montane grasslands of the South Western Ghats, and number only about 2000 individuals.
Much of the native forest has been cleared for grazing cattle, or for plantations of tea, Eucalyptus and Acacia. Two national parks protect portions of the Nilgiris. Mudumalai National Park lies in the northern part of the range where Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu meet, and covers an area of 321 sq km. Mukurthi National Park lies in the southwest of the range, in Kerala, and covers an area of 78.5 sq km, which includes intact shola-grassland mosaic, habitat for the Nilgiri tahr. The entire range, together with portions of the Western Ghats to the northwest and southwest, was included in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in 1986, India's first biosphere reserve.
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