Indian Treasures – Forests and Wildlife

“Forests were the first temples of the Divinity, and it is in the forests that men have grasped the first idea of architecture.” – Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand 

Indian forests which are ancient in nature and composition are home to a huge range of animals and plants. The fact that they have existed for a very long time is proven by their significance in Indian literature. Indian poets and writers find inspiration from the jaw dropping beauty of Indian forests and wildlife. Forests are also second largest in land area next only to agriculture. It occupies 20.64 percent of the country’s geographical area and is now estimated to be at 67.83 million hectares.

Giving importance to the conservation of these priceless resources, several protected areas and wildlife sanctuaries have been instituted at major hotspots. These areas not only provide a home to the rich flora and fauna but also serve as a tourist destination where people can see and appreciate the gift of nature.

Forests in India can be categorised as:

Rainforests– It belongs to the tropical wet climate group supporting a broad array of animals, birds, reptiles etc. The North eastern parts of India are famous for rainforests.

Tropical rainforests-It is the oldest form of forests famous for coffee, banana, chocolate, mango, papaya and sugarcane plantations.

Temperate deciduous forests-These are the forests prevalent in most parts of India especially in the Siwalik hills from Jammu to the West Bengal in the east. Sal, teak, mango, bamboo and rosewood trees grow in these forests.

Dry deciduous forests– They are spread across the northern parts of the country and hosts many wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.

Read further to know more about some of the famous forests and wildlife sanctuaries of India and delve deeper into its inexplicable beauty.

THE HIMALAYAN RANGES

The Himalayas are synonymous to the word “breathtaking”. Accounting for nearly seven percent of the country’s total surface area, they are a chain of lofty mountains and hills. This region supports an amazing diversity of plant and animal species which can be witnessed when we visit the protected areas of Himalayas. Rare animals like red panda, binturong and several lesser cats can be spotted. The sub-alpine regions consist of birch, rhododendrons junipers, dwarf bamboo and a mixture of open meadows and scrub-dotted grasslands. Himalayas are preferred by nature lovers and adventure lovers alike as they offer trekking and overland journey options.

Blue Sheep in Trans Himalayan Region | Image Credits: FineartAmerica
Blue Sheep in Trans Himalayan Region | Image Credits: FineartAmerica

 THE TRANS HIMALAYAN RANGES

Trans Himalayas, as the name suggests, are the ranges that stretch beyond the Himalayas from Ladakh to the Lahul-Spiti. The Trans Himalayas has some of the best biological grandeur which are accustomed to survive in extreme cold conditions. Though extremely cold, these regions are habitat to some very rare varieties of sheep like great Tibetan sheep, the urial or shapu, the bharal or blue sheep, and the ibex.  Wild plants like poplars, willows and wild roses grow here. Occasional sightings of the Tibetan antelope and the Tibetan gazelle have been recorded on the plateau of the Trans Himalayas.

THE WESTERN GHATS

The Western Ghats is a mountain range second only to Himalayas in its magnificence.  It begins from the Surat Dangs at the western extremity of the Satpuras in South Gujarat and extends upto the southern tip of Kerala. The Ghats are the second largest tropical evergreen and semi-evergreen forest belt of the sub-continent.  This zone is so rich in biology that 27 percent of all the species of higher plants in India are recorded here. There are “shola” forests, riverine or swamp forests covering these areas. They are also marked with major valleys like Palghat Gap, Moyar Gorge and Shencottah Gap. Populations of several species of primates, ungulates, carnivores, rodents, squirrels and birds reside here.

Western Ghats | image Credits: InsightsonIndia
Western Ghats | image Credits: InsightsonIndia

JIM CORBETT NATIONAL PARK

This is one of the oldest national parks in India, established in 1936. It sits at the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand covering an area of 1318.54 sq.km. Grasslands, rivers and valleys make Corbett National Park a place of unmatched beauty. The importance of Jim Corbett National Park is that the endangered Bengal tiger resides here. It hosts diversified flora and fauna with 500 different species of plants and animals. A few examples of the animals that live here are gharial, elephant, chital, sambar, wild boar , King Cobra, Indian Pangolin nilgai, muntjac, , common musk shrew, and the flying fox.

Bengal Tiger in Jim Corbett | Image Credits: Aniika
Bengal Tiger in Jim Corbett | Image Credits: Aniika

SAMBHAR WILDLIFE SANCTUARY

If you are an ornithologist, then the Sambhar wildlife sanctuary is an absolute delight for you! Sambhar is India’s largest saline lake flocked by rare and beautiful species of birds. Flamingos and pelicans are the star attractions of the lake. One can also find other species like storks, sandpipers, redshanks, black-winged stilts, coots, and shovelers in the waters of Sambhar. If bird watching is your favourite activity, then do not forget to take your binoculars and cameras!

GIR NATIONAL PARK

Lying in the Gujarat Peninsular region of India, Gir National park is every nature lover’s dream destination. It is known to be the last habitat of the world renowned Asiatic Lion. This wildlife sanctuary is also famous for species like Grey Musk Shrew, Flying Foe, Hare, Hedgehog, Small Indian Civet, Indian Pangolin, Ratel, Porcupine, Fox and Jackal. Bird watchers can look forward to spotting the rare peafowl.

SUNDERBHANS NATIONAL PARK

The Sunderbhans National Park is an important spot in the eastern part of India, situated in the world’s largest delta. The word “Sunderbhans” immediately reminds us of  the impenetrable thick mangrove forests.  It is the largest tiger reserve in the country and home to species like Jungle Cat, Flying Fox, Chital, Wild boar and Pangolin.

Sunderban Mangroves | Image Credits: SiliconIndia
Sunderban Mangroves | Image Credits: SiliconIndia

MUDHUMALAI WILDLIFE SANCTUARY

This wildlife sanctuary is situated at the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. It is marked with tropical moist deciduous vegetation in the western parts and dry-deciduous or thorn scrubs along the east. Mudhumalai is famous for ‘Elephant grass’, Bamboo, valuable timber like Teak, Rosewood, Mathi, Vengai, Venteak and fine flowering trees and shrubs like Indian laburnum, Flame of the forest and Coral trees. It is an exciting place to see Elephant, Gaur, Chowsingha, Mouse deer and Sloth bear and reptiles like Python, Monitor Lizard, Flying Lizard, Cobra, Krait , Vipers etc. Elephant Safari, Elephant feeding camp and the Kalatty falls are major attractions.

Elephants at Mudhumalai Wildlife Sanctuary | Image Credits: Paradiseooty
Elephants at Mudhumalai Wildlife Sanctuary | Image Credits: Paradiseooty

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