India's National Parks
Bandhavgarh National Park
Set among the Vindhya Hills of Madhya Pradesh with an area of 168 square miles, this national park contains a wide variety of habitats and high density of game, including a large number of tigers. Over half the area is covered by sal forests and there are stretches of bamboo and grassland. Within the park is the ancient Bandhavgarh fort and caves, dug into the sandstone of the fort, have inscriptions dating from the 1st century BC. In the recent past, the fort was last occupied by the Maharaja of Rewa until it was designated as a National Park in 1968. In addition to tigers, also seen are chousingha (small four horned) antelope, chinkara (Indian) gazelle, nilgai (blue bull) antelope, wild boar, jackal, muntjak (barking) deer, sambar deer, chital (spotted) deer, jungle cat, striped hyena, porcupine, ratel, rheses macaque, black-faced langur monkey and more. In March and April, gaur (Indian bison), move down from the higher hills to the southeast of the park and make their way to the central meadows. As this park is relatively new, there is still a good chance of adding birds to the checklist of some 150 species already compiled.
Corbett National Park
Northeast of Delhi by 186 miles is Corbett National Park, situated in the Himalayan foothills of Uttar Pradesh. Once a popular hunting ground of the British, this 201 square mile park was named in honor of the late Jim Corbett, the legendary hunter-naturalist turned author and photographer who helped in demarcating the park's boundaries. With the help of the World Wildlife Fund, Project Tiger was launched in Corbett National Park in 1973 and this park was one of the first such tiger reserves in the country.
The varied topography comprises hilly and riverine areas, temporary marshy depressions, plateaus and ravines. The lower areas are almost completely populated by sal trees. In the park are found 110 tree species, 50 mammals species, 580 bird species and 25 reptile species.
Corbett is a haven for tigers with its plentiful prey - four kinds of deer, wild boar and lesser animals. Leopards are found in the hilly areas of the park but often do not cross paths with tigers in their territories. Some nocturnal cats found here are the leopard cat, jungle cat and fishing cat. Sloth bear is found in the lower regions of the park while the Himalayan black bear is seen in the higher hills only. The dole (wild dog), though rare, can be seen in the southern areas of the park along with the jackal. Some of the smaller residents of the park are Himalayan palm civet, Indian gray mongoose, common otter, blacknaped hare and porcupine. Elephants (solitary bulls and breeding herds) are one of the main attractions of Corbett. Along the Ramganga River shores, one can spot the long-snouted, fish-eating gharial crocodile and the mugger crocodile. Also seen on the rocky hillsides is the ghoral (goat-antelopes). The langur and rhesus monkeys are well distributed through out the park and also warn the jungle with alarm calls when they see either a tiger or leopard from tree-top perches.
Special thanks to Nina Rao of Rare Earth Explorations for contributions on India's parks.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication