Wild India – West Bengal

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(Photo from: http://www.indileak.com/elephant-deaths-police-registers-complaint-against-railways/)

West Bengal is a potpourri of highly diversified history, culture and nature. From the slopes of the Lesser Himalaya to the Deltaic Islands in the mouth of the Ganges, the state contributes a vast biosphere that is rich in flora and fauna and also comprises of several tribal communities.

In the north with the influence of the Lesser Himalaya and several water bodies, the region has flourished as one of the major eco-tourist destinations in India, whereas South Bengal with its extreme network of river channels and geographical features in the Deltaic region is famed for hosting the largest mangrove forest in the world.

Here is a list of national parks and wild life sanctuaries of this state.


Buxa Tiger Reserve

(Photo from: http://www.indianaturewatch.net/displayimage.php?id=404674)

Location: Buxa Tiger Reserve (BTR) lies in Alipurduar sub-division of Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal. Its northern boundary runs along the international border with Bhutan. The Sinchula hill range lies all along the northern side of BTR and the Eastern boundary touches that of the Assam State.

Attractions: The reserve plays host to more than 300 species of trees, 250 species of shrubs, 400 species of herbs, 9 species of cane, 10 species of bamboo, 150 species of orchids, 100 species of grass and 130 species of aquatic flora including more than 70 sedges (Cyperaceae).

There are 68 species of mammals, 41 species of reptiles and more than 246 species of birds, 4 species of Amphibian along with 73 species of fishes.

The main carnivores of Buxa Tiger Reserve are Indian Tiger, Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Hog badger, Jungle Cat, Leopard Cat, Sloth Bear, Fishing Cat, Civet Cat, Hyena, Jackal, Mongoose, Fox and Wild dog.

Among the herbivores of Buxa Tiger Reserve, the prominent ones are Elephant, Gaur, Sambar, Chital, Barking deer, Hog deer, wild pig and Hispid Hare. Other animals like porcupines, Rhesus macaque, squirrels, Common Pangolin and Chinese Pangolin are also frequently seen in these forests.

Among reptiles, tortoise, lizards, various kinds of snakes such as King Cobra, Russel’s viper, Black Krait, Banded Krait, Indian Python and Reticulated Python call the reserve home.

Best Time to Visit: October to May.

Things to do: Trekking, jeep safari, car safari, nature trails and bird watching.


Gorumara National Park

(Photo from: http://innovativeindiatours.com/dt_galleries/gorumara-national-park/)

Location: Gorumara is located in the Eastern Himalayas' sub montane Terai belt. This region has rolling forests and riverine grasslands, and is known as the Dooars in West Bengal. The park is located on the flood plains of the Murti River and Raidak River. The major river of the park is the Jaldhaka River, a tributary of the Brahmaputra river system.

Attractions: The Park is rich in large herbivores including Indian Rhinoceros, Gaur, Asian Elephant, Sloth bear, Chital, and Sambar Deer. Small herbivores include Barking deer, Hog deer and Wild boar. There is a comparative lack of large carnivores, with the only big cat being the Leopard.

Gorumara National Park is famous for its bird population - which includes brilliant sub montane forest birds like the Scarlet Minivet, Sunbird, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Spangled Drongo and Great Indian Hornbill. Numerous woodpeckers and pheasants inhabit the park. Peafowls are very common. The park is on the flyway of numerous migratory birds, including the rare Brahminy Duck.

The park is home to a large number of snakes, venomous and non-venomous, including the Indian Python, one of the largest snakes in the world, and the King Cobra - the world's largest venomous snake.

Best Time to Visit: November to May.

Things to do: Elephant safari, spend a night on the watch towers and bird watching,       


Jaldapara National Park

(Photo from: http://www.jaldapara.com/category/videos/page/3/)

Location: Jaldapara National Park is situated at the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas in Alipurduar district in West Bengal and on the bank of the Torsa River.

Attractions: The forest is mainly savannah covered with tall elephant grasses. The main attraction of the National Park is Asiatic one-horned rhinoceros. The national park holds the maximum number of rhinos population in India after Kajiranga National Park in Assam.

The other animals consists of Royal Bengal Tigers, elephants, deer, sambhar, barking deer, spotted deer and hog deer, wild pig and bison.

Jaldapara is a paradise for bird watchers. It is one of the very few places in India, where the Bengal Florican is sighted. The other birds to be found here are the Crested Eagle, Pallas's Fishing Eagle and Shikra, besides Jungle fowl, peafowl, partridges, Bengal Florican and lesser Pied Hornbill.

 Python, monitor lizards, kraits, cobras, geckos and about 8 species of fresh water turtles have also been found here.

Best Time to Visit: October to May.

Things to do: Elephant safari, jeep safari, bird watching and nature trails.


Neora Valley National Park

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Location: Neora Valley National is situated in the Kalimpong subdivision under Darjeeling District is one of the richest biological zones in the entire Northeast. The land of elegant Red Panda in the pristine undisturbed natural habitat with rugged inaccessible hilly terrain and rich diverse flora and fauna together make the park an important wilderness zone.

Attractions: Neora Valley, one of the least tracts of virgin wilderness in the country sustains a unique eco-system where tropical, sub-tropical, sub-temperate, and temperate vegetative system still harbours a wealth of flora and fauna. The forests consists of mixed species like rhododendron, bamboo, oak, ferns and Sal. The Valley also has numerous species of orchids.

The fauna consist of such endangered species as the clouded leopard, red panda, and musk deer. Other species are leopard, five species of civet, black bear, sloth bear, golden cat, wild boar, leopard cat, goral, serow, barking deer, sambar, Himalayan flying squirrel and Thar.

The reserve is a paradise for bird enthusiasts. The semi-evergreen forests between 1600 metres and 2700 metres is the home of several rarities like Rufous-throated Partridge, Satyr Tragopan, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Bay Woodpecker, Golden-throated Barbet, Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo, Lesser Cuckoo, Brown Wood Owl, Ashy Wood Pigeon, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Jerdon's Baza, Black Eagle, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Dark-throated Thrush, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher and White-gorgeted Flycatcher to name a few.

Best Time to Visit: November to March.

Things to do: Bird watching, trekking and nature trails.


Singalila National Park

(Photo from: http://indiagetaways.co.in/singalila-national-park-darjeeling-west-bengal/)

Location: Singalila National Park is located on the Singalila Ridge at an altitude of more than 7000 feet above mean sea level, in the Darjeeling district. It is bordered on the north by the state of Sikkim and on the west by the country of Nepal.

Attractions: Thick bamboo, oak, magnolia and rhododendron forest between 2000 and 3600 metres cover the Singalila Ridge.

There are two seasons of wildflower bloom - one in spring (March - April) when the Rhododendrons bloom, and another in the post monsoon season (around October), when the plants of the lower forests bloom. Sandakphu is known as the "mountain of poisonous plants" due to the large concentration of Himalayan Cobra Lilies which grow there.

The park has a number of small mammals including the Red Panda, Leopard Cat, Barking Deer, Yellow-throated Marten, Wild Boar, Pangolin and the Pika. Larger mammals include the Himalayan Black Bear, Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Serow and the Takin.

The park is a birder's delight with over 120 species recorded including many rare and exotic species call the park home. The park is also on the flyway of many migratory birds.

Best Time to Visit: November to December and March until May.

Things to do: Trekking, nature trails and bird watching.


Sundarban Biosphere Reserve

(Photo from: http://www.theholidayindia.com/blog/sundarban-national-park/)

Location: The Park is part of the Sundarban on the Ganges Delta, and adjacent to the Sundarban Reserve Forest in Bangladesh. The park is made up of 54 small islands and is crisscrossed by several distributaries of the Ganges.

The delta is densely covered by mangrove forests, and is one of the largest reserves for the Bengal tiger. It is also home to a variety of bird, reptile and invertebrate species, including the salt-water crocodile.

Attractions: Tigers in Sundarban have adapted to the saline water and like most other animals are excellent swimmers and have a variable diet ranging from fish, crabs, smaller animals to wild boar and cheetal.

Other mammals of interest found here are dolphins - both the Gangetic and Irrawaddy are found in Sundarban. Apart from these cheetal, rhesus macaque, wild boar, fishing cats, leopard cats, small Indian civet, common otter and black finless porpoise are also reported from the area.

Estuarine crocodiles are present in good numbers in the numerous rivers and waterways. They are often seen basking on the mudflats especially during the winter season.

The park is home to a huge number of birds and reptiles.

Best Time to Visit: October to February.

Things to do: Watch towers, bird watching and boat rides through the mangrove forests.


Ballabhpur Wildlife Sanctuary

(Photo from: http://www.sanctuariesindia.com/ballabhpur-wildlife-sanctuary/)

Location: The sanctuary lies between two mighty rivers – the Damodar and the Ajay. They flow almost parallel to each other (30 kilometres apart) in the region. Ballabhpur Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1977. This wooded area is located near Santiniketan in Bolpur subdivision of Birbhum District in the West Bengal.

Attractions: The sanctuary includes number of wild animals like blackbuck, spotted deer and birds like cuckoo, koel, sunbird, Indian roller, parrot, and babbler.

Best Time to Visit: October to May.

Things to do: Bird watching and nature trails.


Bethuadahari Wildlife Sanctuary

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Location: Bethuadahari Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in the Nakashipara area of Nadia District, West Bengal. This sanctuary is located beside National Highway 34 near Kolkata. The forest here is very densely covered with various trees like Teak, Sal, Babla, Hamjam, Shishu, Arjun and Bamboo.

Attractions: The sanctuary has a large population of spotted deer (chital). Apart from deer this sanctuary is home of other wild animals like jackals, wild cats, Bengal foxes, mongoose, porcupines, rabbits, monitor lizards, pythons and common langurs.

Several birds like parakeets, Indian cuckoos, barbets and other smaller birds can be found here.  There is a trail inside the forest that is named after the legendary ornithologist, Salim Ali. This Salim Ali trail takes tourist to a turtle pond where rare kinds of turtles are preserved. The same pond houses saltwater alligators known as gharial.  Apart from the animals there are a wide variety of butterflies and insects.

Best Time to Visit: October to May.

Things to do: Bird watching and nature trails.


Bibhutibhushan Wildlife Sanctuary

(Photo from: http://www.sanctuariesindia.com/bibhutibhushan-wildlife-sanctuary/)

Location: The sanctuary is located in North 24 Parganas district in Indian state of West Bengal. This 68 square kilometre sanctuary is located on the banks of Icchamati River.

Attractions: The forest is a safe haven for a healthy population of nearly 400 deer. Birds like peacocks, woodpeckers, sankhacheel, Nilkhantha and fultusi call this sanctuary home.

Best Time to Visit: November to May.

Things to do: Nature trails and bird watching.


Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary

(Photo from: http://www.wildbengal.com/urls/protected-areas-wls-chapramari.html)

Location: The Chapramari forest is located near the NH31 connecting north-east with the rest of India. As you cross river Tista on your way into Dooars, you reach the famous Chapramari sanctuary. Murti River flows along the western boundary.

Attractions: A huge variety of flora and fauna covers the forests. Chapramari is famous for its elephant population. Gaur (commonly known as Indian Bison) is quite common around this region.

Albeit few in number, the forests are also home of the famous Royal Bengal Tiger. Other varieties of deer, reptiles and other animals can be easily seen around here. The place is a heaven for bird watchers.

Best Time to Visit: October to May.

Things to do: Elephant safari, nature trails and bird watching.


Haliday Island Wildlife Sanctuary

(Photo from: http://www.sanctuariesindia.com/haliday-island-wildlife-sanctuary/)

Location: Haliday Island Wildlife Sanctuary, covering an area of 3.5 square kilometres is located within the famous Sundarbans in South 24 Parganas District in West Bengal.

Attractions: Major wild life includes the Spotted Deer, Wild Boar, Barking deer and Rhesus macaque. Lots of birds are also spotted here. Bengal Tigers are also part of fauna seen in this area.

Best Time to Visit: October to May.

Things to do: Bird watching and boat rides.


Jore Pokhri Wildlife Sanctuary

(Photo from: http://www.sanctuariesindia.com/jore-pokhri-wildlife-sanctuary/)

Location: Jore Pokhri Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in Darjeeling District of West Bengal.

Attractions: Himalayan Salamander is one of the rarest and oldest amphibian which calls this sanctuary home. Once regarded as totally extinct from this planet earth, it was found living in the hills of Darjeeling in 1964 at Jore Pokhri. It is understood that this Himalayan Salamander is a very primitive and highly endangered species.

The forest is surrounded with Darjeeling and Kurseong on one side and Kachendzonga on the other side. Hence, the sanctuary holds amazing views. A large number of white swans swimming in the waters or strolling around in the nearby area.

Best Time to Visit: June to August.

Things to do: Bird watching and nature trails.


Lothian Island Wildlife Sanctuary

(Photo from: http://www.sanctuariesindia.com/lothian-island-wildlife-sanctuary/)

Location: Lothian Island Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal.

Attractions: Lothian Island Wildlife Sanctuary having an area of 38 square kilometres is a part of deltaic Sundarbans which harbour a tropical estuarine swamp forest.

The tropical estuarine swamp forest consists of mangrove vegetation. Principal tree species are Keora, Baen and Goran. The vegetation provides a dense cover throughout the habitat. Along the edge of the rivers there are grassy patches.

The sanctuary is home to Estuarine Crocodile, Olive Ridley Sea Turtle, Spotted Deer, Jungle feline, Rhesus macaque. Jungle Cats are sighted occasionally. Birds are numerous including the migrants that visit the Sanctuary in winter.

Best Time to Visit: September to May.

Things to do: Bird watching, nature trails and boat rides.


Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary

(Photo from: http://www.sanctuariesindia.com/mahananda-wildlife-sanctuary/)

Location: The sanctuary is situated in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal, India. It comes under Darjeeling Wild Life division and can be reached from Siliguri in 30 minutes. Sukna, the gateway to the sanctuary, is only 13 kilometres from Siliguri and 28 km from Bagdogra Airport. The sanctuary sprawls over 159 square kilometres of reserve forest and was started as a game sanctuary in 1955.

Attractions: The forest type in Mahananda varies from riverine forests like Khayer-Sisoo to dense mixed-wet forest in the higher elevation in 'Latpanchar' area of Kurseong hills. The variation in altitude and forest types helps the existence of a large number of species of mammals, birds and reptiles.

This sanctuary is located near the elephant relocation track; hence elephant herds are seen here. Other animals like Royal Bengal Tiger, Gaur, chital, yapping deer, pig, pangolin, sambar, Rhesus monkey, Himalayan dark bear, porcupines, wild pig, civets and snakes are found here.

The Sanctuary also holds hundreds of feathered species. The list includes some endangered species like fairy blue bird and Himalayan pied hornbill. Among the others, swallow, swift, thrush, babbler, warbler, roller, minivet, sunbird can be found in abundance.

Best Time to Visit: October to May.

Things to do: Safaris, nature trails and bird watching.


Raiganj Wildlife Sanctuary

(Photo from: http://www.mouthshut.com/product-reviews/Raiganj-Wildlife-Sanctuary-Raiganj-reviews-925752494)

Location: Raiganj Wildlife Sanctuary Also known as Kulik Bird Sanctuary, is situated near Raiganj in Uttar Dinajpur of West Bengal. The Kulik River flows around part of the sanctuary and acts as the boundary in its eastern and southern parts.

The shape of the sanctuary is that of the English alphabet "U". The sanctuary has a network of artificial canals connected with the river Kulik.

Attractions: During monsoon the river water enters the sanctuary, which supports a wide variety of food for the birds, particularly for the Asian open bill, whose main diet is apple snail.

Several types of migratory birds arrive here each year from South Asian countries and coastal regions. They start arriving from June. The migratory species includes open-bill storks, egrets, night herons and cormorants. The resident birds are kites, flycatchers, owls, kingfishers, woodpeckers and drongoes.

Best Time to Visit: December to May.

Things to do: bird watching, boating and nature trails.


Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary

(Photo from: http://www.hoparoundindia.com/West-Bengal/attractions-gallery/48592/Senchal-Wildlife-Sanctuary.aspx#4)

Location: Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary was set up in 1915 in the Darjeeling District of West Bengal. It is one of the oldest wildlife sanctuaries of India. It covers an area of 38.6 square kilometres. The elevation ranges from 1,500 to 2,600 metres.

Attractions: High-altitude animals such as barking deer, wild pig, Himalayan black bear, leopard, jungle cat, common rhesus monkey, Assam macaque, Himalayan flying squirrel, etc. are found in their natural habitats. The sanctuary is also rich in bird life.

Barking deer and wild pigs are distributed all over the sanctuary. Goral and serow occupy the undisturbed valleys and steep ridges while the Himalayan Black Bear comes down from higher elevations and stays during autumn and to winter. Leopard, jungle cat & leopard cat occupy the lower elevations.

Best Time to Visit: October to May

Things to do: Nature trails and bird watching.