Bhubaneshwar (Odisha) [India], February 12 (ANI): The Gupteswar Forest, located near the Gupteswar Shiva temple in the Dhondrakhol reserve forest within the Jeypore Forest Division of Koraput district in Odisha has been designated as the fourth Biodiversity-Heritage Site (BHS) in the state.
The site spreads over 350 hectares of demarcated area. Along with its sacred grooves traditionally worshipped by the local community, the site is bestowed with a wide range of flora and fauna. The biodiversity inventory and survey conducted by the Odisha Biodiversity Board shows the presence of at least 608 faunal species including 28 species of mammals, 188 species of birds, 18 species of amphibia, 48 species of reptiles, 45 species of Pisces, 141 species of butterflies, 43 species of moths, 41 species of odonates, 30 species of spiders, six species of scorpion, and 20 species of lower invertebrates.

Significant faunal species like mugger crocodile, kanger valley rock gecko, sacred Grove Bush Frog, and avifauna like black baza, Jerdon's baza, Malaber trogon, common hill myna, white-bellied woodpecker, banded bay cuckoo, etc have also been documented.
The limestone caves of Gupteswar are adorned with eight species of bats out of the total sixteen species found in southern Odisha. Among them, two species galeritus and Rhinolophus rouxii are under the near-threatened category of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

This site also has a rich floral diversity embracing 182 species of trees, 76 species of shrubs, 177 species of herbs, 69 species of climbers, 14 species of orchids and threatened medicinal plants like Indian trumpet tree, Indian snakeroot, Cumbi gum tree, Garlic pear tree, Chinese fever vine, Rohituka tree, Jodpakli, Indian jointfir, and a number of wild crop relatives of ginger and turmeric. In addition to this, many agriculturally and industrially important micro-organisms have also been indicated to exist in this primaeval ecosystem.

Declaration of Gupteswar as BHS while boosting the cultural attachment of people to this forest will also lead to the conservation of its precious biodiversity. With this declaration, the State has now four Biodiversity Heritage sites. The other three are Mandasaru BHS in Kandhamala district, Mahendragiri BHS in Gajpati district, and Gandhamardan BHS in Bargarh and Bolangir district.
State Government has asked the Odisha Biodiversity Board to prepare a long-term plan for intensive conservation and development of these sites through direct participation of the local communities. An amount of Rs.35 lakhs has been provided for the preparation of an action plan and awareness-building activities among the localities.
The nature lovers, intelligentsia, and local populace welcomed the decision of the Government and expressed satisfaction that this forest in the long run would add to the livelihood of the people through eco-tourism and minor forest produce.
Chairperson of the Board Dr Meeta Biswal and Member Secretary Dr. Nihar Ranjan Nayak congratulated the bio-diversity management committee of Haladikunda (Gupteswar ) Gram Panchayat along with scientists and researchers of the Board for this achievement. (ANI)

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