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Kumily is small town in close proximity to Thekkady, on the outskirts of the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and a thriving center for trading in spices. From the Periyar Valley, the Western Ghat mountains drop dramatically onto the Deccan Plateau. The town was once known as Kuzhumoor and used to be the capital of the Thekkumkoor Kings. It was with the advent of the British in the region that it underwent drastic changes. The British either bought or obtained on lease, vast stretches of land and hilly areas from the feudal land lords or from the princely state of Travancore and converted the forests to plantationsof tea, coffee, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and other spices and labor from Tamil Nadu and Kerala were brought to work in the plantations.
The tribal communities of Kumily today have a population of around 2000 people and live in perfect harmony with nature. Five ethnically different communities -- the Mannans, the Paliyas, the Uralis, the Mala-arayas and the Malampandarams -- have settled in Kumilypanchayat, mainly on the outskirts of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. In the remote forests, there are tribes who still carry out their age-old practices such as building small dolmens for honouring the dead.
Though they used to earn their living through traditional occupations like fishing and agriculture, with the advent of eco-tourism initiatives, they have found alternative jobs. They actively take part in the tourism-related programs and serve as guides for tourists or as forest guards to prevent poaching and other illegal activities.
The Periyar Tiger Reserve is South India's most popular wildlife sanctuary . Covering an area 777 sq. km. in size with a 26sq. km artificial lake, the sanctuary is home to about 1000 elephants, about 35 tigers, bison, wild boars, langurs and deer besides a bewildering array of other species. The vegetation of the reserve is made of evergreen and semi evergreen rainforests with the canopy at times reaching a height of 40 to 50 metres. The Periyar and Pamba rivers flow through the forest and a large artificial lake has been created where animals come to drink. People oriented community based ecotourism is the hallmark of PeriyarTiger Reserve. These programs are conducted by locals who, by taking tourists along not only interpret the values of Periyar and enhance the visitor experience but also add to the protection of the park and earn a livelihood out of it. Hence, when visitors participate in these programs they are directly contributing to the cause of conservation and community welfare.