India's richest Tirupati Temple is now inside the country's third biggest biosphere reserve - a highly protected zone home to rare endangered plants and animals.
The Environment Ministry on Wednesday decided to declare the 8,000 square kms area in Seshachalam hills, which falls in Chittoor and Kadapa districts of southern Andhra Pradesh, as biosphere reserve.
"The Biosphere Reserve will comprise three zones, the Core zone, the Buffer zone and the Transition zone spread over 4755.997 sq km in the Chittoor and the Kadapa districts of Southern Andhra Pradesh," said the ministry's note of approval.
The core zone comprises of 750.589 sq km in the Rajampet forest division of Kadapa district, Tirupathi forest division of Chittoor district, Sri Venkateswara National Park, areas contiguous to the National Park and areas rich in bio-diversity which would enjoy legal protection.
The core zones will be free from human habitation and will allow research activity and macro management practices in addition to acting as demonstration sites for value addition to the resources in buffer areas.
The Buffer zone (outside the core zone) spreads over 1865 sq km - covering Reserve Forest lands and parts of Sri Venkateswara wildlife sanctuary. An area of 2140 sq. kms falling within 5 km radius from the outer boundary of the Buffer zone is designated as the Transition zone.
Some of Andhra Pradesh's most beautiful areas fall under the reserve like the famous Talakona, Gundalakona and the Gunjana falls and Tirumala, the abode of Lord Venkateshwara located on seven hills known as the Seshachalam hills.
These hill ranges are also home to endangered animals like the Slender Loris, the Indian Giant Squirrel, the Mouse Deer and the Golden Gecko, a ministry official said.