Most of us saw the late Steve Irwin and marvelled at how he handled a reptile so fearsome. What most of us probably don’t know is that a crocodile research centre in Kerala was once named after the Australian ‘Crocodile Hunter’. The Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary, which spans around 12,000ha at the southeast corner of the Western Ghats, was declared a sanctuary in 1958. But serious conservation efforts started only in 1985 when a separate wildlife wing was established here. Today, it has a lion safari park, an elephant rehabilitation centre and deer rehabilitation centre.
Also a crocodile farm, established in 1977 and renamed briefly the Steve Irwin Crocodile Rehabilitation and Research Centre, which has about 20 mugger crocodiles and provides information on their breeding and maintenance. The sanctuary is situated at the basin of the Neyyar River and encompasses the Agasthyarkoodam Peak (1,890m) and the Neyyar Dam Reservoir.
The sanctuary also plays host to elephants, sloth bears, Nilgiri tahr, gaur, sambars, barking deer, Indian porcupines and Malabar squirrels. Cobras, vipers, pythons, rat snakes and flying snakes are commonly found. Avian visitors here include kingfishers, white-breasted water hen, little green heron, darters, brahminy kites, little egrets, etc. The lake formed by the dam across the Neyyar is a popular boating site. The nearest airport is Thimvananthapuram (40km). The best time to visit is October to March.