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Jim Corbett Sanctuary
 

Jim Corbett National Park—named after the hunter turned conservationist Jim Corbett who played a key role in its establishment—is the oldest national park in India. The park was established in 1936 as Hailey National Park. Situated in Nainital district of Uttarakhand the park acts as a protected area for the critically endangered Bengal tiger of India, the secure survival of which is the main objective of Project Tiger, an Indian wildlife protection initiative.

The park has sub-Himalayan belt geographical and ecological characteristics. An ecotourism destination, it contains 488 different species of plants and a diverse variety of fauna. The increase in tourist activities, among other problems, continues to present a serious challenge to the park's ecological balance.

Corbett has been a haunt for tourists and wildlife lovers for a long time. Tourism activity is only allowed in selected areas of Corbett Tiger Reserve so that people get an opportunity to see its splendid landscape and the diverse wildlife. In recent years the number of people coming here has increased dramatically. Presently, every season more than 70,000 visitors come to the park from India and other countries.

The Jim Corbett National Park is a heaven for the adventure seeker and wildlife adventure lovers. Corbett National Park is India's first national park which comprises 520.8 km2. area of hills, riverine belts, marshy depressions, grass lands and large lake. The elevation ranges from 1,300 feet to 4,000 feet. Winter nights in Corbett national park are cold but the days are bright and sunny. It rains from July to September.

Dense moist deciduous forest mainly consists of sal, haldu, pipal, rohini and mango trees, and these trees cover almost 73 per cent of the park. The 10 per cent of the area consists of grasslands.It houses around 110 tree species, 50 species of mammals, 580 bird species and 25 reptile species. The endangered Bengal tiger of India resides here. The sanctuary was the first to come under Project Tiger initiative.

Flora

A total of 488 different species of plants have been recorded in the park. Tree density inside the reserve is higher in the areas of Sal forests and lowest in the Anogeissus-Acacia catechu forests. Total tree basal cover is greater in Sal dominated areas of woody vegetation. Healthy regeneration in sapling and seedling layers is occurring in the Mallotus philippensis, Jamun and Diospyros tomentosa communities, but in the Sal forests the regeneration of sapling and seedling is poor.

Fauna

Over 585 species of resident and migratory birds have been categorized, including the crested serpent eagle, blossom-headed parakeet and the red junglefowl — ancestor of all domestic fowl. 33 species of reptiles, seven species of amphibians, seven species of fish and 37 species of dragonflies have also been recorded.

Bengal tigers, although plentiful, are not easily spotted due to the abundance of camouflage in the reserve. Thick jungle, the Ramganga river, and plentiful prey make this reserve an ideal habitat for tigers who are opportunistic feeders and prey upon a range of animals. The tigers in the park have been known to kill much larger animals such as buffalo and even elephant for food. The tigers prey upon the larger animals in rare cases of food shortage. There have been incidents of tigers attacking domestic animals in times when there is a shortage of prey.

Leopards are found in hilly areas but may also venture into the low land jungles. Smaller felines in the park include the jungle cat, fishing cat and leopard cat. Other mammals include four kinds of deer (barking, sambar, hog, Black buck and chital), Sloth and Himalayan Black bears, Indian Grey Mongoose, otters, yellow-throated martens, ghoral (goat-antelopes), Indian pangolins, and langur and rhesus monkeys. Owls and Nightjars can be heard during the night.

In the summer, elephants can be seen in herds of several hundred. The Indian python found in the reserve is a dangerous species, capable of killing a chital deer. Local crocodiles were saved from extinction by captive breeding programs that subsequently released crocodiles into the Ramganga river.

Ecotourism

Though the main focus is protection of wildlife, the reserve management has also encouraged ecotourism. In 1993, a training course covering natural history, visitor management and park interpretation was introduced to train nature guides. A second course followed in 1995 which recruited more guides for the same purpose. This allowed the staff of the reserve, previously preoccupied with guiding the visitors, to carry out management activities uninterrupted. Additionally, the Indian government has organized workshops on ecotourism in Corbett National Park and Garhwal region to ensure that the local citizens profit from tourism while the park remains protected.

Tiwari & Joshi (1997) consider summer (April-June) to be the best season for Indian tourists to visit the park while recommending the winter months (November-January) for foreign tourists. According to Riley & Riley (2005): "Best chances of seeing a tiger to come late in the dry season- April to mid June-and go out with mahouts and elephants for several days."

As early as 1991, the Corbett National Park played host to 3237 tourist vehicles carrying 45,215 visitors during the main tourist seasons between 15 November and 15 June. This heavy influx of tourists has led to visible stress signs on the natural ecosystem. Excessive trampling of soil due to tourist pressure has led to reduction in plant species and has also resulted in reduced soil moisture. The tourists have increasingly used fuel wood for cooking. This is a cause of concern as this fuel wood is obtained from the nearby forests, resulting in greater pressure on the forest ecosystem of the park. Additionally, tourists have also caused problems by making noise, littering and causing disturbances in general.

In 2007, young naturalist and photographer - Kahini Ghosh Mehta - took up the challenge of promoting healthy tourism in Corbett National Park and made the first comprehensive travel guide on Corbett. The film titled - Wild Saga of Corbett - showcases how tourists can contribute in their own small way in conservation efforts. The film is loaded with all information needed by a tourist before planning a visit to the park along with tips from senior park officials, nature guides and naturalists. Tourists can get a DVD copy of this film from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).

Other Attractions

Dhikala: This well-known destination in Corbett is situated at the fringes of Patli Dun valley. There is a rest house here which was built hundred of years ago. Kanda ridge forms the backdrop, and from Dhikala, one can enjoy the spectacular natural beauty of the valley.

Garjia Temple: It’s located on the banks of river Kosi, nearly 14 km away from Ramnagar City. At the time of Kartik Poornima, a fair is held here. The temple is dedicated to Garjia Devi.

Ranikhet: This is one of the beautiful hill station located in the Almora district of Uttaranchal. Tourists can view the eye catching views of Indian Himalayan from this place. This hill station receives heavy snow fall from December to February.

Elephant Safari: The ride on this majestic animal is one of the major attractions of Corbett National Park. Sitting on an elephant, like a royal, you go into the grasslands and jungles looking for tigers or a herd of wild elephants. Two times a day, Elephant safaris are arranged that starts from Dhikala—early morning and late afternoon.

Treks: Tourists are not allowed to have a walk inside the park, but they are allowed to go for trekking around the park, only with a guide. This place becomes very cold in the winter season, so tourists should make proper arrangements for themselves, if they are travelling in the winter season.

Kalagarh Dam: This dam is located in the south west direction of the Jim Corbett wildlife sanctuary. This is one of the best places for the bird watching tour. Lots of migratory waterfowl comes here in the winters.

 
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    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Corbett_National_Park
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