Sacred groves of the Western Ghats are the Hindu community-managed and protected forests. The strong cultural belief was the major driving force of conservation of sacred groves in India. This is the reason why over 1,00,000 sacred groves of different sizes (<1 ha to > 100 ha) were once existed in different parts including the heavily populated urban parts. Since they have been protected for many centuries, most of the sacred groves are the relics of primary forests and maintain the genetic pool of many endangered and endemic species of the Western Ghats. However, due to the cultural disbeliefs among young generation the forest part of many sacred groves have shrunk their size, degraded, or often vanished. Following a detailed questionnaire method, we have analyzed the attitudes of the local communities in the neighborhood of 70 sacred groves in the Western Ghats – 50 sacred groves in rural forest-dominated landscape in Kodagu and 20 sacred groves in urban human populated landscape in Kasaragod – to understand their current involvement and perception on continued conservation of sacred groves.
There were significant differences on attitudes of local communities on conservation of sacred groves in their neighborhood. The rural communities (35%) use the forests of the grove for many purposes, but the urban communities not (3%). 95% and 73% of urban and rural communities, respectively believe that the sacred groves have important roles in maintaining ecosystem functions and services. 35% of the urban community believe that the sacred grove might be a source of the wildlife including insect pests, which leads to increasing human-wildlife conflict in cropland. Marginally significantly high proportion of rural communities (58% vs. 35%; p=0.025) believe that sacred groves are the sources of mosquito problem and mosquito-related diseases. Both the communities disagree that neither them nor they do allow outsiders to use the forest as a waste-disposal place (p=0.56). The people in the urban area are more vigilant about peoples’ use and abuse of the forest (96% vs. 87%, p=0.002). However, 100% and about 99% of the respondents of the urban and rural areas are in agreement that the forests in the sacred groves should be protected either by the local community (urban respondent 99%) or by the forest department (rural environment 59%).