National Parks and Sanctuaries in India
India is one of the 17 mega diverse countries of the world. With only 2.4% of the world’s land area, 16.7% of the world’s human population and 18% livestock, it contributes about 8% of the known global biodiversity, however, putting enormous demands on our natural resources. India is home to world’s largest wild tigers population and has got unique assemblage of globally important endangered species like Asiatic lion, Asian Elephant, One-horned Rhinoceros, Gangetic River Dolphin, Snow Leopard, Kashmir Stag, Dugong, Gharial, Great Indian Bustard, Lion Tailed Macaque etc.
A National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), chaired by the Prime Minister of India provides for policy framework for wildlife conservation in the country. The National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016) was adopted in 2002, emphasizing the people’s participation and their support for wildlife conservation. A network of 668 Protected Areas (PAs) has been established, extending over 1,61,221.57 sq. kms. (4.90% of total geographic area), comprising 102 National Parks, 515 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 47 Conservation Reserves and 4 Community Reserves.
There were 515 wildlife sanctuaries in India covering an area of 117,077.41 km2 which is 3.56% of the geographical area of the country. Another 217 sanctuaries are proposed in the Protected Area Network Report covering an area of 16,669. 44 km2. Most of the sanctuaries provide at least optimum accommodation and other facilities but they have to be booked in advance. Some parks even provide modern guest houses usually van and jeep rides and also boat trips are arranged to give the visitors a good view of the animals in their natural habitats. Watch towers and hides are also available.
Some of the notable parks and sanctuaries are listed below:
Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary: This sanctuary has a scenic valley and a meandering river. The name literally stands for ‘ten villages’, which could be in memory of the ten villages that were relocated in order to create the park. It is 22 km by road from Srinagar. It was initially established to ensure the supply of clean drinking water to Srinagar city. A protected area since 1910, it was declared as a national park in 1981. The park is best known as the home of the hangul, or Kashmir stag.
Corbett National Park: It is the oldest national park in India and was established in 1936 as Hailey National Park to protect the endangered Bengal tiger. It is located in Nainital district of Uttarakhand and was named after Jim Corbett who played a key role in its establishment. It was the first to come under the Project Tiger initiative. The park has good scenery with sal and hardwood trees. There are numerous watch towers and day-time photography is allowed.
Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary: This reserve in West Bengal is to the southeast of the city of Calcutta. It contains the mangrove forests of the Gangetic delta. It is an important haven for tigers but it is also includes fishing cats and a wide variety of birds. It is accessible by boat ride only. It is the choice of every tiger lover coming to India for catching the mightiest glimpses of this majestic creature along the Ganges delta of India and Bangladesh. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Sundarbans area covers 4624 sq. km in India alone to incorporate a variety of bird, reptile and invertebrate species, including the salt-water crocodile. The present Sundarbans National Park was declared as the core area of Sundarbans Tiger Reserve in 1973 and a wildlife sanctuary in 1977. On May 4, 1984 it was declared a National Park.
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary: It is located in the State of Assam in North-East India, a biodiversity hotspot. Covering an area of 39,100 hectares, it spans the Manas river and is bounded to the north by the forests of Bhutan. This area bordering Bhutan is form by the rivers Manas, Hakua and Beki Rivers and is situated in Assam state. The life includes tigers, buffaloes, elephants, sambhars, swamp deer and langurs. The bodo rebels of Asom have recently used it and consequently most of its infrastructure has been destroyed.
Kaziranga National Park: It is a UNESCO world heritage site, the park hosts two-thirds of the world’s Great One-horned rhinoceros. It is located in the Golaghat and Nagaon districts of the state of Assam, India. The park is full of tall grasses and swampy areas. The rhinos can be spotted around the swampy areas, bathing. Egrets and other birds are also accommodated here. The park is home to large breeding populations of elephants, wild water buffalo, and swamp deer. Kaziranga is recognized as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International for conservation of avifaunal species. When compared with other protected areas in India, Kaziranga has achieved notable success in wildlife conservation.
Ranthambore National Park: Ranthambore or Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan is smaller in size when compared to most of the parks in India. It is famous for its lake tigers but nowadays the number has dwindled thanks to large-scale poaching in these areas. It is located on the Mumbai-Delhi rail line and is 160 kms by road from Jaipur.It was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1957 and in 1974 it gained the protection of “Project Tiger”. It got it’s status of a National Park in 1981.
Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary: This is the best-known bird sanctuary in India, situated in Rajasthan. It is also called Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. It is famous as one of Asia’s finest birding areas, with over 380 resident and migrant species, including the Common, Demoiselle and the rare Siberian Cranes. It is also an excellent place to watch mammals like Golden Jackal, Striped Hyaena, Fishing Cat, Jungle Cat, Nilgai, Sambar, Blackbuck and wild Boar. The park derives its name from the temple of Keoladeo (Shiva) and ‘ghana’ which locally means dense, implying the nature of the vegetation.
Gir National Park: This Oasis in the deserts of Gujarat and it is the sole home of the Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica) and is considered to be one of the most important protected areas in Asia due to its supported species. The park comprises 1412 sq. km of deciduous forest interspersed with semi-evergreen and evergreen flora, acacia, scrub jungle, grasslands and rocky hills. Fed by perennial and seasonal rivers and streams, the sanctuary has large water bodies like the Kamleshwar Dam that are good for marsh crocodiles, reptiles and birds.
Kanha National Park: This is one of the spectacular and most exciting parks for wildlife in India and is in Madhya Pradesh. Originally, it was conceived to protect the swamp deer also called Barasing has but now it also includes tigers, chitals, blackbuck, langurs and leopards.It was created in 1974 under Project Tiger and is one of the most well maintained National Parks in Asia.The Rudyard Kipling got inspiration for writing his famous novel “Jungle Book” from the lush sal and bamboo forests, grassy meadows and ravines of Kanha.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary: It is an example of nature’s bounty, with great scenic charm, rich bio diversity and providing veritable visitor satisfaction. This is a large and scenic park in Kerala state built around an artificial lake. It is famous for its large elephant population. Others include wild dogs, Nilgiri Langurs, otters, tortoise, and arid hornbills.The park is made up of tropical evergreen and moist deciduous forests, grasslands, stands of eucalyptus, and lake and river ecosystems.There are many hundreds of flowering plant taxa, including about 171 species of grass and 140 species of orchids.The grasses are found in the open grasslands found on the edges of the water body where fire resistant vegetation grows and dense grasses like elephant grass are found. This is the common dining hall of various herbivores.
Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary: This is situated around 35 kms to the south of Chengalpattu in Tamilnadu and is home for a large variety of birds. It is one of the smallest and oldest in the country with a unique history. The local people have been protecting the sanctuary for centuries now because they have realized that the bird droppings falling into the tank increases nitrogen content of the water and when used to irrigate crop increases the yield greatly and saves the cost of fertilizers.Cormorants, egrets, herons, storks, ibises, pelicans, grebes and hornbills breed here from October to March. At the peak season of December to January more than 30. 000 birds can be spotted.
Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary: It is a 21.47-square-kilometre protected area in Tamil Nadu, South India along the Palk Strait where it meets the Bay of Bengal at Point Calimere at the south-eastern tip of Nagapattinam District. This is a wetland area jutting out of the Palk Strait that separates India and Sri Lanka. It is famous for flocks of migratory birds mainly flamingos Black bucks, spotted deer and wild Pigs are found here. It is famous for large congregations of waterbirds, especially greater flamingos
Mudanthural Tiger Sanctuary: This is located in Tamilnadu along its border with Kerala. It mainly consists of tigers but also has chitals, sambhars and lion—tailed macaques. But it is extremely difficult to spot the tigers. It has at least 150 endemic plants, 33 fish, 37 amphibians, 81 reptiles, 273 birds and 77 mammal species.
Anamalai Wildlife Sanctuary: It was established in 1976, and renamed Anamalais (Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary) in 1987. This is along the slopes of the Western Ghat Mountains in the border between Tamilnadu and Kerala.It has an area of around 1000 sq. km and houses elephants, gaurs, tigers, panthers, deer, boars, porcupines and wild cats. In its heart lies the Parambiculam Dam, which provides good scenic beauty.