Corbett National ParkJim Corbett National Park — named after the famous hunter and naturalist who played a key role in its establishment — is the oldest national park in India. The park was originally 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. It contains 488 different species of plants and a diverse variety of fauna. During recent times the park has been a popular ecotourism destination. The increase in tourist activities, among other problems, continues to present a serious challenge to the park's ecological balance.
HistorySome areas of the park were formerly part of the princely state of Tehri Garhwal. The forests were cleared to make the area less vulnerable to Rohila invaders. The Raja of Tehri formally ceded a part of his princely state to the British in return for their assistance in ousting the Gurkhas from his domain. The Boksas - a tribal people from the Terai - settled on the land and began growing crops, but in the early 1860s they were evicted with the advent of British rule. The British forest department established control over the land and prohibited cultivation and the operation of cattle stations. The British administration considered the possibility of creating a game reserve there in 1907 and established a reserve area known as Hailey National Park covering 323.75 km² (125 sq mi) in 1936. The preserve was renamed in 1954-55 as Ramganga National Park and was again renamed in 1955-56 as Corbett National Park.The new name honors the well-known author and wildlife conservationist Jim Corbett, who played a key role in creating the reserve by using his influence to persuade the provincial government to establish it.
The reserve does not allow hunting, but does permit timber cutting for domestic purposes. Soon after the establishment of the reserve, rules prohibiting killing and capturing of mammals, reptiles and birds within its boundaries were passed. The park fared well during the 1930s under an elected administration. But during the Second World War, it suffered from excessive poaching and timber cutting. Over time the area in the reserve was increased — 797.72 km² (308 sq mi) were added in 1991 as a buffer for the Corbett Tiger Reserve. The 1991 additions included the entire Kalagarh forest division, assimilating the 301.18 km² (116.3 sq mi) area of Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary as a part of the Kalagarh division. It was chosen in 1974 as the location for launching Project Tiger, an ambitious and well known wildlife conservation project. The reserve is administered from its headquarters in the district of Nainital.Corbett National Park is one of the thirteen protected areas covered by World Wildlife Fund under their Terai Arc Landscape Programme. The programme aims to protect three of the five terrestrial flagship species, the tiger, the Asian elephant and the Great One-horned Rhinoceros, by restoring corridors of forest to link 13 protected areas of Nepal and India to enable wildlife migration.
GeographyThe park is located between 29°25' to 29°39'N latitude and 78°44' to 79°07'E longitude. The average altitude of the region ranges between 360 metres (1,181 ft) and 1,040 metres (3,412 ft). It has numerous ravines, ridges, minor streams and small plateaus with varying aspects and degrees of slopes. The park encompasses the Patli Dun valley formed by the Ramganga river.
The reserve, located partly along a valley between the Lesser Himalaya in the north and the Siwaliks in the south, has a sub-Himalayan belt structure. The upper tertiary rocks are exposed towards the base of the Siwalik range and hard sandstone units form broad ridges. Characteristic longitudinal valleys, geographically termed Doons, or Duns can be seen formed along the narrow tectonic zones between lineaments.
Climate: The weather in the park is temperate compared to most other protected areas of India. The temperature may vary from 5 °C (41 °F) to 30 °C (86 °F) during the winter and some mornings are foggy. Summer temperatures normally do not rise above 40 °C (104 °F). Rainfall ranges from light during the dry season to heavy during the monsoons.
FaunaOver 585 species of resident and migratory birds have been categorized, including crested serpent eagles, blossom headed parakeet and the red jungle fowl — ancestor of all domestic fowl. 33 species of reptiles, 7 species of amphibians, 7 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, often in packs using the advantage of numerical superiority. The reserve has enormous boars, weighing up to 200 pounds, who provide a match for the tigers as a large male boar is capable of killing a tiger. 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, 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 are seen in large 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 subsequent;y released crocodiles into the Ramganga river.
EcotourismThough 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.
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