The Periyar Wild Life Sanctuary, one of India's biggest wild life sanctuaries covering 777 sq.km is a Tiger Reserve. Its centre piece, the man-made Periyar Lake at the height of 2000 Ft, covers 26 sq.km. British engineer, Colonel.J.Pennycuick conceived a design to dam the Periyar river which runs through the forests of the western ghats in Kerals. The dam was created in 1895 to divert the water to TamilNadu for irrigation. The Lake is an important source of water for the many wild animals.
The forests around the lake were declared as reserved forests in 1899. The enlightened Maharaja of Travancore, realising the significance of conservation, appointed Mr.S.C.H.Robinson as the first game warden. Based on his recommendations the forests around the lake were turned into a sanctuary in 1934. The sanctuary which assumed a new identity in 1950 has been managed by a separate game department until it was merged with the forest department in 1966. It was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1978 under the famous scheme Project Tiger. In 1982 the core area of there serve has been notified as National Park.
The Periyar wildlife sanctuary can be divided into four categories. The open grasslands studded with fire-resistant vegetation and a variety of grasses including elephant grass,which are the common dining hall of herbivores - from barking deer to the elephant; which the most deciduous forest type dominated by trees like teak and Terminalia which shed their leaves seasonally; the semi evergreen forest close to the tropical forests and wet, stream areas and the sholas or tropical evergreen jungle often tigers and king Cobras that are found in the Valleys. This area of dense forest allows only a limited stream of sunlight through and in the moist, dark corridors.
The best time to visit Periyar is between October and May. The best chance of watching animals during the hot months of March, April and May, when water gets low and the grass dried out, animals especially elephants come down to the Periyar lake to bath and frolic in the water along with their young ones.
The varied habit at in the sanctuary supports a number of species of terrestrials, aquatic and arboreal animals. Elephant behaviour can be watched in such absolute comfort and safety. The wildlife population consists of estimated 600 elephants, 450 sambar deer, 550 wildboar, 180 troops of Nilgiri languor monkeys, 26 troops of bonnet and lion-tailed Macaques, 400 porcupine, 100 gaur, 50 mouse deer and a number of Bears, Wild dogs, jackals, Civets, flying squirrels, Mongoose, Pangolin cobra and others. Nilgiri Tahr is also reported to be seen in this area. There are now an estimated number of 45 Tigers and 15 Leopards in Periyar sanctuary. The lucky tourist may even see a tiger.