GEOGRAPHY AND ENVIRONMENT

Kerala is a small state on the western coast of the peninsular tip of South India, located between 12 degrees 48' and 8 degrees 18'. The state hangs just above the equator, creating a sub-tropical environment. Kerala is perfectly sheltered by the Indian Ocean on the west and south, and by a mountain range known as the Western Ghats on its north and east borders. The Western Ghats in Kerala are comprisd of three different ranges, the Nilgiris, the Annaimalais, and the Cardamoms, none of which exceed 4,000 feet above sea level. The state covers an area of 38,863 square kilometers, 24.7% of which is covered in forest.

Kerala is a place of exceptional fertility. It consists of three narrow longitudinal strips of land – an alluvial coastal plain, a low plateau and foothils, and the highlands. On the coastal plain there is a huge network of backwater rivers and lakes that trace the movements of the sea during the past 2,000 years. A large section of the Kerala coast was under the sea in the recent past. Cities can be seen that were once on the coast and are now landlocked within Kerala’s borders.

Kerala is an ideal environment for flora and fauna to flourish. Within the forests, a variety of orchids, rare medicinal plants, teak, sandalwood, a wide variety of spices, coffee and tea, eucalyptus, pepper, etc. can be found.There is also a unique flower called a neelakurinji that blooms only once every 12 years, the last bloom was in 1994. Kerala also holds the largest teak and eucalyptus in the world.

There is also a wide variety of birds, including peacocks, the lion tailed macaque, the Malabar grey hornbill, heron, the blue winged parakeet, and the rose billed roller. There are also a number of different wild animals, including elephants, a wide variety of snakes, tigers, leopards, several species of monkeys, etc. An endangered species of mountain goat called the Nilgiri Tahr (Hemitragus hylocrious) can also be found. There are less than 2,000 of these left in the world, 60% of which can be found in Kerala.

Kerala also holds three rivers that flow east into the plateau lands of the Deccan in Central India, and fortyfour rivers that flow west into the midlands and the coast of Kerala. The highlands of Kerala also hold some of the last remaining natural rainforests in the world. The land of Kerala is an ideal place for agriculture, and the spices that are grow here have kept Kerala in the world's eye for centuries.

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