Is there wildlife in IITM?

While exploring pictures of IIT Madras on the internet, both in general and on the institute websites, one would find numerous pictures of monkeys, birds, and different types of deer, not to mention the intense greenery. This is the most visible evidence of the fact that IIT Madras has a rich variety of wildlife in its premises, which only adds to the natural grandeur of the campus. You can spot herds of deer on your walk along the Gajendra Circle, and you would most probably see monkeys frequenting your hostel and the surroundings during the day. The IIT Madras campus is home to many animals which are not common in a busy city like Chennai.

Both Guindy National Park and the IIT campus have about 300 species of trees and plants with quite a large number of native wild species, which are unique to the tropical, dry evergreen vegetation. This is also one of the least common types of vegetation found in India. Hence, it is very important to protect the native wild species for the healthy future of the place. After the establishment of IIT, a lot of native species were replaced by exotic, non-regional avenue trees and garden plants. A typical example from the campus is the introduced species, Prosopis juliflora or ‘velikkathan’. Though it is not a native species to Coromandel coast, it has become an ideal habitat for a host of birds like open-billed storks and herons near the oxidation pond. Similarly, it provides food for animals like blackbuck and deer during the summer months. An example of a plant that has been showing adverse reactions is ‘Gulmohar’. These trees are mostly spread by stem cuttings and hence do not have a tap root system. They have been found to be poor survivors during heavy winds and rains. Valuable and rare herbs are also found in some corners. An approximate total of 20 herbs have been recorded. Rare and common mushrooms and other fungi can also be seen in IIT Madras.

The campus boasts of being the habitat to one of the most elegant antelopes in the world - the Blackbuck. It also has the graceful Spotted Deer (Cheetal). The vast campus houses a lot of other smaller and exquisite life forms that play a major role in the biodiversity of the campus Squirrels and mongoose are also commonly seen on the campus. Though relatively rare, sightings of snakes like cobras and rat snakes have been reported on occasion. 42 species of butterflies have been identified in the campus including the vibrant blue tiger, banded peacock, baron, leopard, cupid and many more. Around 25 species of insects, from the most common silverfish to stick insects, beetles and colorful bugs are also found in IIT Madras.

The campus is home to numerous resident and migratory birds, thanks to its proximity to the Adyar River and the Guindy National Park. Birds such as parakeets, mynas, peafowls, spotted owlets, hoopoes, and several species of water birds can be spotted in and around the campus. The lush greenery, trees, and open spaces attract these avian visitors. Almost 86-90 species of birds have been reportedly spotted in IIT Madras including storks, drongoes, moorhens, kingfishers, kites etc.

IIT Madras has a Wildlife Club named Prakriti which aims at the conservation of the invaluable natural wealth of the campus. They spread awareness about the need to conserve the flora and fauna to maintain the ecological balance, through various means like billboards, workshops,etc. They sensitize freshers about the importance of the wildlife on campus and also conduct campaigns and drives for removal of non-biodegradable waste and protect the animals.

IIT Madras has strictly demarcated areas where no humans or vehicles are allowed, so as to not disturb the sanctity of the wildlife inhabiting the spaces. Animal rescue is also prompt in the event of any animal being injured or even sick. Security is also strict to ensure that no illegal activities pertaining to animals happen. Vehicles are checked at the exit to make sure that no weapons that can harm life are being carried and also to prevent activities like hunting and poaching. IIT Madras is a place that spreads the message that technology can coexist in harmony and develop without harming the environment and all forms of life calling it home.