A five-century old teak tree stands tall inside the Kappayam forests in Edamalayar range and is one with the biggest girth , writes Ignatius Pereira
KOLLAM: The giant teak tree deep inside the Kappayam forests is around 500 years old. No one need even think of getting to its annual rings to count the exact age, as, in the past 20 years, a watchman has been guarding the behemoth.
The only tree in the wild to enjoy the privilege is in the Edamalayar range under the Malayattoor division of the Forest Department, which has listed it as “a priceless antique treasure of the Kerala forests.”
The 38.5-metre-tall Kappayam teak is shorter than the 48.5-metre Kannimara teak in Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary. But what lends the Kappayam teak its giant status is the generous 7.75 metre girth. The Kannimara teak has a girth of only 6.57 metres. The Forest Department has recorded the height and the girth on the tree.
The Kappayam teak stands at Narangathara at the eastern end of the Edamalayar dam catchment area, providing a spectacular display of its height and girth. The tree is healthy and continues to grow and flower annually. The poaching of a bigger teak tree, called the Jonakapura teak, from the area 25 years ago made the government post a watchman.
The Forest Department found Bhaskara Pillai of Nooranad in Alappuzha district as the right man for the job. Mr. Pillai had earlier worked as a daily-wage worker with the department to mark hardwood and softwood trees in the forest area earmarked to become the catchment area of the dam.
His dedication and courage became the qualifications for getting posted as the ‘bodyguard’ of the tree in February 1991. Mr. Pillai was selected for the task by the present Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, T.M. Manoharan, during his term as Conservator of Forests, Thrissur.
Mr. Pillai said the tree appeared to have survived facing great challenges. Though not so huge, seven other teak trees of similar age stood in the Kappayam area, one of them bearing the scar inflicted by a saw many years ago. For some reason, the poachers left without felling it.
Mr. Manoharan told The Hindu that the naturally growing tree would never be felled and preserved as a treasure for posterity. Kappayam was one area which the Forest Department discovered to be a place with many huge naturally growing teak trees and all of them were now given tough protection.
Courtesy The Hindu