Friday, April 9, 2010

Bandhavgarh ecosystem

Bandhavgarh is a moist deciduous tropical forest type. It is situated in the Vindhya Range that lies in the Central Indian State of Madhya Pradesh. The forest flora comprises of Sal (Shorea Robusta) as the dominant species with Bamboo (Dendrocalamus strictus) on slopes of hills. The other tree elements comprise of Saj, Dhawa, Bhilma,Tendu, Bel, Harra, Bija, Lyndia, Arjun, Mahua, Pipal, Banyan, Kosum, Palas, Salai, Gunjan, Char, Jamun, Aonla, Pakur, Kulu, Amaltas and many more. The woody climbers, herbs and shrubs constitute the understory.

The grasslands of Bandhavgarh are marshy inundated by Charanganga, Johilla and Umrar rivers. The marshy grasslands are ideal ground for hunting for Bengal tigers. Most of the grasslands at Bandhavgarh are edaphic but support the herbivores like spotted deer and sambar. There is no historical record of Swamp deer at Bandhavgarh National Park. The only coarse grazer Indian bison or gaur has lost ground here.

The terrain is undulating and comprises of steep rocky cliffs many with forested slopes. The valleys that hold marshy grasslands, forest and criss crossing rivulets are prime habitats of the herbivores and carnivores follow them here.

There are thirty two hillocks of which Bandhavgarh Hill is the highest. This where the Fort is situated alongside Laxman Temple. On the way to the hill is Sesh Shaiiya a fairy pool with reclining Vishnu carved out of rock. On the way up there are many zoomorphic forms of Lord Vishnu carved out of the rocks. The hill expresses solitude and an esoteric charm difficult to behold. Very few tourists visit this place.

Of the grasslands called bahera, Chakradhara and Chur Bahera are famous for tiger safaris in Bandhavgarh. It is here that lot many tiger sightings take place. The Raj Bahera perhaps the largest was home to the gaurs and herds of deer and wild boar. I have experienced few tiger sightings here. Other interesting places are Shera Dadra, Mahaman, Bathan, Ghoda Daman and Andheri Jhiriya.

There are many water bodies, small lakes, ponds, water holes and small streams that form the life support system of the park. Besides one can spot some water birds as well. The preserve is rich in bird life and can be constituted as major birding spot for forest birds.

The tiger sits at the apex of food chain and hence is the keystone species being a tertiary carnivore. The leopards, wild dogs are at the top rung of the food chain a degree less than the tigers. The consumers comprise mainly of spotted deer, sambar, barking deer and four horned deer. The Nilgai keeps to open areas of the park on exterior of Bathan and elsewhere. The chinkara have not been seen in my numerous visits since last decade. The nocturnal animals are less seen as night safaris are not allowed in the park. Sloth bear, fox, ratel, porcupine, civet cats, flying squirrel and the rest can be seen on night drive on the periphery on public roads. Jackal, mongoose and jungle cats are diurnal. Flash and spotting lights are not allowed. Hyena and Indian wolf are less seen and there status is unknown. The sighting of caracal is not confirmed. Mouse deer recently discovered in Kanha wildlife preserve is not check listed here.

The reptiles common are grass snakes, pythons, cobra, krait, viper, rat snake, keel backs, tree snakes and many more are less seen perhaps more apparent during the monsoons whence the preserve is closed. Monitor lizards and flying lizards are present here.

The insect life in thousands is yet to be discovered with butterflies being the most exciting elements. Signature spiders and other species are widespread while moths can be sighted here and there.

The producers are indescribable...perhaps a botanist would do a better job. But the floral diversity is as striking as the fuana is. From micro organisms to algae and fungi and exotic plants as Sundew (Drossera indica) The park is limited by its canopy spread and the designated area by Project Tiger holds little meaning. The supports systems are all around and habitats outside park confines are as important.

Bandhavgarh forests where earlier favored hunting ground for Maharajas or Rewa. The intact ecosystem as of today is perhaps as a result of zealous preservation of the forests for their sport. After Independence Bandhavgarh Park was declared as tiger reserve. The project initiated by the government of India is to conserve tiger habitats and its tigers. The park has shown excellent response to conservation efforts. The tigers and other wildlife flourish with gusto.

The park has highest density of tigers in India and hence the best place to see tigers in the wild. Though not absolutely safe from poachers and wood smugglers the in accessible hilly regions perhaps are a boon to wildlife here.

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