The Biligiriranga Hills, commonly called B R Hills, is a hill range situated in south-eastern Karnataka, at its border with the district of Erode in South India. The area is called Biligiriranga Swamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary or simply BRT Wildlife Sanctuary. It is a protected reserve under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Being at the confluence of the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats, the sanctuary is home to eco-systems that are unique to both the mountain ranges. This beautiful sanctuary was declared a Tiger Reserve in December 2010.
Besides the fantastic scenery on offer, as well as ample trekking opportunities, BR Hills is best known for the high likelihood of animal sightings and the diversity and richness of the flora and fauna in the area. This is due to the fact that the BR hills links the Eastern Ghats and the Western Ghats allowing animals to move between them and facilitating gene flow between populations of species in these areas. Thus, this sanctuary serves as an important biological bridge for the biota of the entire Deccan plateau.
The most conspicuous mammals in the BR Hills are the herds of wild elephants. The BR hills is the only forest east of the main Western ghats mountain ranges in the central southern peninsula to harbour these panchyderms in large numbers.
A recent tiger census conducted by forest officials has confirmed the presence of 17 tigers in the sanctuary.
The forests are also well known for many indian bison. There are about 26 species of mammals in total recorded in the sanctuary. The other mammals include sambhar, chital, the shy barking deer which are quite common here and the rare four-horned antelope. Carnivores include tigers, leopards, wild dogs, lesser cats and sloth bears and among arboreal mammals two species of primates and three species of squirrels including the giant flying squirrel are recorded. 254 species of birds recorded in the BR hills. These include the enigmatic southern population of the White-winged Tit (Parus nuchalis), a specimen of which was collected by R. C. Morris and now housed in the Natural History museum at Tring.
The hills are famous for the temple of Lord Ranganatha or Lord Venkatesha which is situated on the highest peak of the hill range, on the ‘white cliff’ which gives the hill its name. The sanctuary is about 250 kilometres away from Bangalore by road, which is the easiest way to get to the sancutary. The nearest train station is Chamrajnagar about 40km away. BR Hills also houses “Dodda Sampige” – a sacred grove revered by the local tribes and home to many beautiful trees. The climb to the grove is a favourite among avid trekkers. Accomodation is available inside the sanctuary itself, for all budgets.
Arguably, the most unique and important feature of BR Hills is that it provides daily living proof that biodiversity conservation can go hand-in-hand with people and their livelihoods. The tribal Soliga people have lived in harmony with these forests for hundreds of years and provide BR Hills with a peerless model for conservation of our heritage.