Located in south-interior Karnataka and spread over 10,000 sq km, Tumkur District is host to a wide variety of wildlife. Although forests cover just about 4% of the district’s geographical area, they are home to some spectacular wildlife and picturesque landscapes. Much of the tree cover and forests of the district are concentrated along two hill chains made up of metamorphic rocks, which run roughly north to south in the eastern and western parts of the district and stand on the Archean complex. The hill chain in the east is made up of Closepete Granite, a part of Dharwar group of rocks. This chain, which has some monoliths shooting over 1000 metres, hosts many important reserve forests of the district like Madhugiri, Siddarabetta, Devarayanadurga and Ujjini. The hill chain of schist rocks in the west is rich in minerals like iron. These mineral-rich hills which were even mined for gold until a couple of decades ago, are home to some of the largest contiguous forests of interior Karnataka like Bukkapatna and Manchaldore. At the other end of the spectrum, the district has some of Karnataka’s best grassland habitats like Jayamangali Blackbuck Reserve near Maidenahalli, where numerous blackbucks still thrive. This is near its borders with Hindupur taluk of Andhra Pradesh’s Anantpur District. The district is also home to hundreds of wetlands as well as springs called Tala Paragis, which quench the thirst of humans and beasts alike and host an array of wildlife, particularly local and long-distance migrant waterfowl.
Some lesser-known wilderness areas of Tumkur District
1) Madhugiri State Forest – A taluk head quarters in Tumkur District, Madhugiri town is 105 km north-west of Bangalore. The hills around Madhugiri town echo with some of the most fascinating stories. Resplendent with fortified hills like Madhugiri, Midgeshi and Chennarayanadurga, this region is rich in human, biological and geological history and the scenery here is stunning, particularly in the monsoon and winters. The town was an important cantonment in medieval times, deriving its name from the hill located to its south. Madhugiri hill is a monolithic granite rock that has awed warriors and rock-climbers alike. This one-rock hill rises over 1500 feet from the surrounding countryside and is over 3,800 feet above mean sea level, making it among the tallest monoliths in the world. Often ruled by local chieftains, it changed hands with Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan taking control of this fort before the British captured it in 1792 along with the neighbouring Chennarayanadurga fort.
Madhugiri State Forest lies in the southern shadows of the Madhugiri hill and its environs. This dry deciduous forest with patches of moist deciduous woods along the many streams has minimal human pressure as there are hardly any roads inside it. It is contiguous with the forests around the historic hill fort of Channarayanadurga and a stone’s throw away from Siddarabetta and Koli Kaalu State Forests, which are known for their medicinal plant diversity. It is home to a good number of sloth bears. While visitors to the forest in early morning or late evening are welcomed by peafowl and sambar deer, many have sighted monitor lizards sheltering amidst the shade away from the hot sun. Late evenings are a good time to see the sloth bear. Amidst the forests is the serene British-built Thimlapura Forest Bungalow constructed in 1898, which is still in use.