The Western Ghats are one of the globally recognized "hotspots" of biodiversity in India. In Maharashtra small patches of forest in the Ghats are protected by local people as "sacred groves." They are called "Devrai" which have been managed by local people and are dedicated to the deity in the grove. These groves act as benchmarks of less disturbed vegetation. The study has been conducted on fifteen groves through detailed expert and semistructured interviews of their priests and locals have been conducted to appreciate their traditional management systems. There is no evidence to show that the groves were intended primarily for biodiversity conservation or as a science based natural resource management strategy. Biodiversity conservation of groves is thus a by-product of a traditional belief of locals in the supernatural power of the forest deity. The concept of ICCAs (Indigenous Community Conserved Areas) and making registries of local knowledge of biodiversity as a tool for developing future conservation initiatives can act as a useful strategy to preserve the groves in the face of regional development pressures and gain government recognition for protecting the groves in the long term.
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