Wildlife Tourism In India

Wildlife tourism in India plays a very vital role in preserving, conserving, promoting and showcasing the floral and faunal diversity of India. In spite of the density of human population, India still boasts a great wealth of wildlife in almost all parts of the country. About hundred years back India was a sportsman’s paradise for big and small game hunting. Then, in the first half of this century, “reserves” had to be established to prevent game from becoming too scarce: this happened both in British India where the Provincial Forest Departments took timely steps to preserve game, and also in many of the princely states where the rulers had their own game reserves. As India’s population increased and spread to remote districts, game, reduced in numbers, retreated to the reserves. Then came into being the new concept of wild animals and birds as “wildlife” to be preserved, rather than as “game” to be hunted by sportsmen. After independence of India in 1947, many of these former game reserves became re-designated as “wildlife sanctuaries” and “national parks” where all the wild animals and birds are fully protected so that they will not become extinct.

A large number of visitors to India wish to view and photograph wildlife in its natural habitat in the sanctuaries. India's wildlife sanctuaries and national parks extend a great welcome to visitors and those who look forward to seeing a large variety of wild animals and birds in beautiful and diverse surroundings will not be disappointed. The wildlife of India is not as rich as it is in certain parts of Africa, where large numbers of antelopes and other creatures can be seen out in the open in broad daylight. But it is far more numerous than in any part of North America and Europe; and, though being mainly nocturnal, it can be easily seen in the mornings and evenings, the customary time for visiting sanctuaries in India. Another peculiarity of India’s sanctuaries is that they are not of the vast size of those in the U.S.A., Canada and Africa. Large areas of uninhabited “wilderness” are not available. Many of India’s sanctuaries are in the region of only 100 square miles or less, and in some of these there have to be carefully planned forest operations for timber extraction in order to meet the country’s pressing economic demands. But in such cases great care is taken not to impair the natural beauty of the place.

An advantage possessed by India is that with great vastness, diversity of climate (the wettest in the world to the driest), variations in altitude (from sea-level to the Himalayas) with accompanying changes in types of vegetation, there are some wild life sanctuaries which can be visited while at their best at any given time of the year.

Much of the wild life of India’s sanctuaries is peculiar to the sub-continent, and is not found in other parts of the world. The swamp deer is found only in India, the four-homed antelope and nilgai only in India. The spotted chital, perhaps the most beautiful of all deer, has its home in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The black-buck is not found elsewhere than in India. The improbable-looking, armour-plated, great Indian one-homed rhinoceros can’t be found elsewhere in the world (except in Nepal). The Indian lion is an indigenous species and was not imported from Africa: in fact it is an older inhabitant of India than the tiger. The Indian 'bison’’ is not a bison at all: it is the gaur, a species of Wild ox.

India's wildlife and its sanctuaries are a great attraction to lovers of animals. In a mechanical and over-busy world, an absorbingly fascinating holiday can be spent in a setting of fine forests, lofty mountains, and large rivers, with a rich assortment of wild animals and birds.

Under the Indian Constitution, wildlife is a state responsibility and not a central one, and so the sanctuaries are under the control of the Forest Departments of the various states. The Forest Departments of nearly all states are advised by State Wild Life Boards; while at the center is the Indian Board for Wild Life which has an Executive Committee.

India conforms to the principles of wildlife conservation as adopted by most countries of world, but it has had to make several modifications to suit the conditions of this vast and densely populated country. In some states a few ‘national parks’ have been constituted, while in others such places are known as “wild life sanctuaries”. A sanctuary of one state, therefore, may not be inferior in tourist value to a national park in another state. A great deal of development is taking place in most sanctuaries. Better roads are being built, new and better buildings for accommodation are being constructed and improved motor transport is being arranged. For this reason it is always advisable to ascertain beforehand the details of any recent changes.

There are two societies closely concerned with wild life on an all-India basis. These are: the Mumbai Natural History Society in Mumbai (with a journal published thrice yearly); and the Wild Life Preservation Society of India in Dehradun (with a journal published twice yearly).

There are many wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in different parts of India with their unique variety of flora and fauna. There's little to beat the excitement of watching a tiger stalk its prey in Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan or a flock of flamingoes burst into flight in Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary. For Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings crawling to the sea in Odisha, elephants taking a bath in Periyar National Park in Kerala and other heartwarming sights- indeed, for a ringside view of creation - come to the parks and sanctuaries of India. From the last refuge of the Asiatic lion in Gujarat to gigantic mangrove swamps in the East, from the high reaches of the Himalayan sanctuaries to the marine nature reserves of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, it's one big jungle out there. Following are some famous wildlife sanctuaries in India:

Kanha National Park, 97 -square mile area of beautiful undulating forest and Interspersed with open grassy patches in the central highlands of India, is one of the finest places for seeing Indian swamp deer, chital, black-buck, gaur (Indian 'bison'), sambar and various carnivores. Ninety species of birds have been listed here. It is located in the Mandala district of Madhya Pradesh and can be reached from Jabalpur and Nagpur.

Shivpuri National Park, about 61-square miles in extent, was the game preserve of the former kings & commanders of Gwalior State. It consists mainly of deciduous forest; a good place for seeing the Indian gazelle or chinkara. Sambar, chital, nilgai, tiger and other carnivore are also found here. It is located in Shivpuri district of Madhya Pradesh, on the main road from Mumbai to Agra, 72 miles south of Gwalior.

Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary used to be the famous duck shooting preserve of the former rulers of Bharatpur. In summer it is a sanctuary for the countless water birds that come here to breed: open-bill storks, painted storks, egrets (3 species), Indian darters, white ibis, spoonbills, grey herons and sarus cranes. A few black-buck, chital and other animals roam in the nearby forest. It is located in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan, about 260 km from Delhi and merely 50 km from Agra.

Dachigam Sanctuary consists of hills of Lower Dachigam, which is the winter refuge of the famous, but now very rare Kashmir stag, and Upper Dachigam where the stag migrates in the summer months. Both parts of the sanctuary are extremely beautiful with mountain, forest and river scenery. Himalayan black bear and pig are also found in Lower Dachigam which is only 13 miles from Srinagar in Kashmir.

Corbett National Park is spread in 125-square mile in Uttarakhand. The reserve used to be the Halley National Park, but was re-named in 1957 after the well-known sportsman and writer Jim Corbett. It is in the foothills of the Himalayas and is the abode of the tiger, leopard and other carnivores. Wild elephants, sambar, chital, hog deer, barking deer and many other kinds of wild animals are found here. Fishing of ‘mahseer’ is permitted in the Ramganga river.

Jaldapara National Park, one of the last strongholds of the far-famed Indian rhinoceros, consists of about 36 square miles of rain forest on the river Torsa in West Bengal. Sambar, swamp deer, barking deer, pig and occasionally wild elephant are also found here. Peafowl and jungle-fowl are among the many species of birds. Riding elephants are provided for seeing the sanctuary.

Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh, spread over 30 square miles, was one selected as a suitable new home for the re-introduction of the Indian lion. One lion and two lionesses were brought here from the Gir Forest in 1957, and several litters of cubs have been born. But, now there is no lion at present in this sanctuary. Nilgai, pig, chinkara, sambar, chital, etc. are also found here. It is merely 45 miles from Varanasi.

Manas National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s a unique wildlife sanctuary that is known for great scenic beauty as well as wildlife — also fishing in the splendid river. Spread over 105 square miles and flanked to the north are the foothills of the Himalayas and Bhutan. A few rhino at the eastern end, but the main attraction is the wild buffalo, elephant, gaur (Indian ‘bison’), several species of deer as well as tiger and other carnivores. It is 95 miles west of Gauhati.

Kaziranga National Park in Kaziranga, spread over 166-square miles, is famous as the main stronghold of the Indian rhino. There are also a good number of the magnificent wild buffalo, elephant, Indian swamp deer, sambar, hog deer and many species of water birds. Well-trained riding elephants take visitors into the sanctuary. In dry weather there are some roads inside the sanctuary which are jeep-able from December to April.

Bandipur National Park was earlier the game preserve of the Maharajas of Mysore, noted for its fine herds of gaur and chital. Also, wild elephant, sambar, barking deer, common langur, bonnet macaque, pig and other mammals. Carnivore and peafowl, grey Jungle fowl and many other species of birds can be spotted here. It is accessible all the year round by good motor roads throughout the sanctuary. Best time for seeing the gaur is May onwards, when the new grass is growing up.

Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, located in Mandya district of Karnataka, is spread over 40 acres of land. It used to be called Srirangapatna and consists of islands in the sacred Kaveri River. During the months of June to August the following birds breed there: open-bill stork, white ibis, night heron, Indian darter, cormorant and cattle egret. It is merely 20 km from Mysore.

Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu is a declared national park and tiger reserve. It is located adjacent to Bandipur on the other side of the inter-state boundary. The animals to be seen are gaur, elephants, sambar, chital, barking deer, pig and occasionally a tiger or a leopard. Common langur, bonnet macaque, Malabar squirrel and a variety of birds are also found here. It is merely 40 miles from Ooty and 60 miles from Mysore.

Sariska National Park, brought under Project Tiger in 1979, is a tiger land in Rajasthan. Tiger Reserve lies in the Alwar district in Rajasthan. Out of 492 square km protected area at Sariska, 293 square km area is indicated for grant of National Park status in 1982. The rich wildlife of the Sariska National Park consists of leopard, wild dog, jungle cat, hyena, jackal, tiger, sambar, chital, nilgai, chausingha, wild boar, langur, rhesus monkeys, etc. Also a habitat to numerous varieties of birds, the park is full of birds like peafowl, grey partridge, bush quail, sand grouse, tree pie, golden-backed woodpecker, crested serpent eagle, the great Indian horned owl, etc.