Wednesday, 28 August 2013

An animal paradise

It was once the private hunting reserve of the Maharaja of Mysore. Today, it is perhaps the only place in India where you can still see elephants in hundreds gathering at the river side. This has become such a regular occurrence that tourists and visitors flock to this place to see this magnificent spectacle.
This is also the best place in the Indian sub continent to look up the Dhole or the Indian wild dog. The place is also a known centre for the Indian Giant Squirrel which can be seen, curled up in trees holes and branches during the day.
It is also a designated tiger reserve and it has a wide variety of flora and fauna that perhaps is unparalleled. Together with several other forests, it forms part of one of the largest protected areas in India.  
This is the Bandipur forests that is nestled in Gundlupet taluk of Chamarajanagar district amid the Western Ghats and it is located on the Mysore-Ooty highway. The Nilgiri hills is just across the forests. Just 80 kilometres or 50 miles from the royal city of Mysore, Bandipur hosts one of the best and also among the first tiger reserves of the country.
The Bandipur National Park is a contiguous forest and adjoins the neighbouring wildlife sanctuaries of Mudumalai National Park in Tamil Nadu and Wayanad in Kerala.
Together, the forests total 2,183 km or 843 sq miles making it the largest protected areas in south India. The Bandipur park spans an area of 874 square kilometers or 337 sq miles, while Nagarhole is spread over 643 kms  or 248 sq mi, Madhumalai 320 kms or 120 sq mi and Wynad  344 kms or 133 sq miles. They all form part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
This is one of the 15 sanctuaries belonging to the Project Tiger Scheme when it was initially launched in 1973 by the World Wide Fund for Nature. Today, it has over 70 tigers. In 1974, Bandipur was declared a National Park under the Wildlife Protection Act.
Bandipur is regarded as one of the most spectacular places to watch huge elephant herds which congrete at the Kabini river. .
The drier south east  corner of  Bandipur has scrub forests. During the dry months of March-May, the elephants stay close to rivers and lakes. During this time, elephant sightings are very common in Nagarhole national park.
Mastigudi also reports large gatherings of 100 or so Indian Elephants on the banks of the Kabini lake. There are reportedly more than 5000 elephants, a fifth of the world population of Asiatic elephants. Bandipur is probably the best place in the subcontinent for seeing Dhole.
Since the reserve is bifurcated by a road connecting Karnataka and Kerala, there are a lot of vehicles and the heavy traffic has ld to several animal deaths. The Karnataka High Court has banned traffic between dusk and dawn in an effort to reduce man-animal conflict and bring down animal deaths.
Bandipur has an interesting history. It was started by the Maharaja of Mysore in 1931 and called Venugopala Wildlife sanctuary. In 1973, it was declared a tiger reserve and 800 kms was added to it. Since the park is located where the Deccan plateau meets the Western Ghats, the altitude ranges from 680 meters (2,230 ft) to 1,454 meters (4,770 ft). As a result, the park has a variety of biomas including dry deciduous forests, moist deciduous forests and shrub lands.
Thus the range of habitats help support a diverse range of organisms. The park is flanked by the Kabini in the north and the Moyar in the south with the Nugu river running through it. The Moyar forms the natural boundary between Bandipur and Madhumalai. There are twelve streams and small rivulets that flow in and around the park. The highest point in the park is on a hill called Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta, where there is a beautiful temple at the summit.
Bandipur has several varieties of teak trees. The best time to see wildlife is March to April, but the climate is pleasant and temperate from November to February.
Apart from elephants, dholes  and tigers, Bandipur supports gaurs, bears, antelpos, muggers, rock pythons, langurs, peafowls, drongos, buzzards, vultures, eagles, snakes, monitor lizards and several others mammals and reptiles. The wild boar can be seen in clearings or rooting near water bodies. Gaur and chital can be seen grazing in forest clearings.
Bandipur is classified as an important bird area and at the latest count there were more than 180 species.
Bandipur is also known for its butterflies and the species include , Common Jezebel, Southern Birdwing, Common Rose, Crimson Rose, Common Jay, Tailed, Lime Butterfly, Malabar Raven, Common Mormon, Red Helen, Blue Mormon, , Common Wanderer, Mottled Emigrant, Common Grass Yellow, Spotless Grass Yellow, One spot Grass Yellow, Nilgiri Clouded Yellow, Psyche, Common Gull., Caper White or Pioneer, Small Orange Tip or Lesser Orange Tip, White Orange Tip, Large Salmon Arab, Common Evening Brown, Great Evening Brown, Common Palmfly, Common Bushbrown, Glad Eye Bushbrowm, Red Disk Bushbrown, Red Eye Bushbrown, Lepcha Bushbrown, Nigger, Common Threering, Common Fourring, Common Fivering, Tawny Coster, Rustic, Common Leopard, Indian Fritillary, Common Sailer, Colour Sergeant, Chestnutstreaked Sailer, Grey Count, Red Baron or Baronet, Angled Castor, Common Castor Aridane merione, Yellow Pansy, Lemon Pansy, Peacock Pansy, Chocolate Pansy, Orange Pansy, Blue Pansy, Grey Pansy, Blue Admiral, Glassy Blue Tiger, Blue Tiger, Dark Blue Tiger, Plain Tiger, Striped Tiger/ Common Tiger, Danaid Eggfly, Great Eggfly, Common Crow, Brown King Crow, Common Pierrot, Angled Pierrot, Banded Blue Pierrot, Striped Pierrot, Dark Pierrot, Red Pierrot, Lime Blue, Zebra Blue, Gram Blue, Common Cerulean, Tiny Grass Blue, Dark Grass Blue, Indian Cupid, Large Four-Line Blue, Common Silverline, Plum Judy, Plain Scupid, Pea Blue, Metallic Cerulean, Chestnut Bob, Dark Palm Dart, Brown awl
Ant species include Anenictus sp1, Anoplolepis longipes,Camponotus parius, Crematogaster biroi, Crematogaster sp 1, Crematogaster sp 2, Diacamma rugosum, Lepisiota capensis,Leptogenys chinesis, Leptogenys coonorensis, Leptogenys diminuta, Lophomyrmex quadripinosus, Meranoplus bicolor, Monomorium indicum, Myrmicaria striata, Myrmicaria brunnea, Oligomyrmex wroughtonii, Pachycondyla sp1, Paratrechina sp1, Pheidole sharpi, Pheidole sp1, Pheidole sp2, Pheidologeton diverus, Polyrhachis exercita, Solenopsis geminate, Tetraponera rufonigra, Tetraponera sp1.
The Dung beetles found in Bandipur include Catharsius granulatus, Copris indicus, Oniticellus cinctus,  Onitis singhalensis, Onthophagus beesoni, Onthophagus ensifer, Onthophagus ranam,   Onthophagus sp.107, Onthophagus tarandus, Picnopanaleus rotundus, Caccobius diminutives, Caccobius ultor, Copris furciceps, Copris sp,  Heliocopris dominus, Pseudonthophagus sp, Sisyphus neglectus, Caccobius inermis, Caccobius meridionalis., Caccobius torticornis, Caccobius sp, Copris sodalist, Onthophagus socialis, Onthophagus sp.301, Onitis phelemon, Onthophagus furcillifer, Caccobius gallinus, Onthophagus rufulgens, Onthophagus sp, Copris repertus, Pseudonthophagus sp.1, Copris davisoni, Onitis falcatus, Onthophagus turbatus, Copris imitans, Onthophagus quadridentatus, Caccobius vulcanus, Liatongus affinis, Oniticellus spinipes, Sisyphus longipus, Onthophagus dama.
There are several species of butterflies and beetles which are yet to be identified. You can travel around the park in open jeeps which are available on hire inside the park and check out the butterflies and other smaller wildlife.
Bandipur also provides open vans with guides.The elephant safari here is famous and you could actually tour the park sitting on the back of an elephant. Another famous activity is the Boat Safari, where you will be taken upstream on the Kabini to where the river itself separates the Nagarhole from Bandipur.
Today, on the banks of the Kabini, one can witness the largest congregation of Asiatic elephants, peacefully feeding and getting on with their lives. In addition to diverse wildlife sighted on the extensive river banks, the boat safari offers an opportunity to observe the Marsh Crocodile, Smooth-coated Otter and myriad water birds.
If you are a sociologist or anthropologist, trek to Mangala village which has tribal colony and get to know their life. 
Bandipur is easily accessible from Mysore, Chamarajanagar, Nanjangud and Gundlupet. There are plenty of buses and private transport. The Jungle Lodges and resorts operates a resort. There are cottages operated by the Forest Department, a hotel by the Karnataka Tourism Department and some privately managed cottages as well. Gundlupet is the closest town and it is about 20 kms away. 
Nanjangud is the nearest railway head and so is Mysore. The nearest airport is Mysore. Chamarajanagar and Gundlupet is the nearest major bus terminus. There are direct buses from Bangalore and Mysore to Bandipur.  
Visitors can book accommodation and safari vehicle online either through Credit Card or Debit Card. Log on onto the official website of Bandipur Tiger Reserve,
The Bandipur Tiger Reserve has seven cottages and four dormitories - totaling about 95 beds, out of which four cottages and three dormitories (totaling 77 beds) are offered for online booking. The remaining is reserved for emergency and for officers on duty. Of the five safari buses, four are offered for online booking. The booking can be done one month in advance or before the actual date of journey.
Tourists will be charged 1.95 per cent extra towards banking transaction charges. The entire amount will go to Bandipur Tiger Conservation Foundation fund, which works for Conservation of the wildlife and welfare of employees.
Special entry permits are required to enter the park and they can be obtained from the Forest Department office at the entrance.

Besides entry fee, additional fee is levied on cameras and vehicles.

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