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Gupteswar forest is state's 4th biodiversity heritage site

Bhubaneswar: Gupteswar forest inside Dhondrakhol reserve forest under Jeypore forest division of Koraput district has been declared the fourth biodiversity heritage site (BHS) of Odisha govt, official sources said on Monday.

The site, spread over 350 hectares of demarcated area, has the famous Gupteswar Shiva shrine.

Apart from its sacred groves traditionally worshipped by the local community, the site is bestowed with a wide range of flora and fauna.

A biodiversity inventory and survey conducted by the Odisha Biodiversity Board shows the presence of significant faunal species like mugger crocodile, Kanger valley rock gecko, sacred grove bush frog and avifauna like black baza, Jerdon’s baza, Malabar trogon, common hill myna, white-bellied woodpecker and banded bay cuckoo.

The limestone caves of Gupteswar are home to eight species of bats out of the total 16 species found in southern Odisha. Among them, two species, Hipposideros galeritus and Rhinolophus rouxii, are under the near-threatened category of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

This site also has a rich floral diversity. Apart from trees, shrubs, herbs and orchids, the forest has important medicinal plants like Indian trumpet tree, Indian snake root, cumbi gum tree, garlic pear tree, Chinese fever vine, rohituka tree, jodpakli, Indian jointfir and a number of wild crop relatives of ginger and turmeric.

Many agriculturally and industrially important micro-organisms have also been indicated to exist in this ecosystem, the sources said.

The state now has four biodiversity heritage sites, including Gupteswar forest. State govt has asked the biodiversity board to prepare a long-term plan for intensive conservation and development of these sites through direct participation of the local communities. It has sanctioned Rs 35 lakh for preparation of the action plan and awareness-building activities in the localities, the sources added.

Local people, nature lovers and intellectuals welcomed the decision.

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