Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park is the first national park in Nepal. Which was established in 1973. The UNESCO designated CNP as a World Heritage Site in 1984. In recognition of its unique biological resources of outstanding universal value,It covers an area of 952.63 km2 (360 sq mi) and is located in the subtropical Inner Terai lowlands of south-central Nepal in the districts of Nawalparasi, Parsa, Chitwan and Makwanpur. In altitude it ranges from about 110 m (330 ft) in the river valleys to 850 m (2,674 ft) in the Churia Hills. The Chitwan valley is characterized by tropical and subtropical forests. Roughly 70 percent of park vegetative cover is Sal forest(Shorea robusta, a moist deciduous vegetation type of the terai region)grassland, riverine forest and Sal with Chir pine (Pinus roxburghii). The riverine forests consist of Khair (Acacia catechu), Sissoo (Dalbergia sisoo) and Simal (Bombax ceiba). The park is bounded by the Rapti and Narayani River in the north, Parsa Wildlife Reserve in the east and Madi settlements and India border in the south.
The park has three major rivers which are Narayani, Rapti and Reu, and their floodplains; and several lakes and pools are the major water sources of the park. Being the first protected area of Nepal, it has a long history of over three decades in park management and rich experiences in nature conservation. Chitwan was a big game area for the royal families, Rana rulers and their guests. . In 1996, an area of 750 km2 surrounding the park was declared a buffer zone, which consists of forests and private lands including cultivated lands. The park and the local people jointly initiate community development activities and manage natural resources in the buffer zone. The government of Nepal has made a provision of plowing back 30-50 percent of the park revenue for community development in the buffer zone. A total of 68 species of mammals , 56 species of herpeto fauna and 126 species of fish have been recorded in the park. The park is especially renowned for its protection of One Horned Rhinoceros, Royal Bengal Tiger and Gharial Crocodile.
CLIMATE AND BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Chitwan National Park is from October to March, when skies are relatively clear and the average daily temperature is a calmly 25°C. However, the best time to see animals is March to April when the tall grass (elephant grass) is slashed by villagers, improving visibility considerably. At other times the grass can grow as tall as elephant height making it difficult to spot animals that may be as close as a few feet away. Jeep safari in the park are virtually impossible during the monsoon (June to September), during these 14–15 weeks most of the 2,500 mm yearly precipitation falls – it is pouring with rain. After mid-October the monsoon clouds have retreated, humidity drops off, and the top daily temperature gradually subsides from +36 °C / 96.8 °F to +18 °C / 64.5 °F. Nights cool down to 5 °C / 41.0 °F until late December, when it usually rains softly for a few days. Then temperatures start rising gradually. When tracks through the park become almost impassable. The jeep safari re-open at October or could be later depending upon road and weather condition.
The typical vegetation of the Inner Terai is Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests with predominantly sal trees covering about 70% of the national park area. The purest stands of sal occur on well drained lowland ground in the centre. Along the southern face of the Churia Hillssal is interspersed with chir pine (Pinus roxburghii). On northern slopes sal associates with smaller flowering tree and shrub species such as beleric (Terminalia bellirica), rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo), axlewood (Anogeissus latifolia), elephant apple (Dillenia indica), grey downy balsam (Garuga pinnata) and creepers such as Bauhinia vahlii and Spatholobus parviflorus.
Seasonal bushfires, flooding and erosion evoke an ever-changing mosaic of riverine forest and grasslands along the river banks. On recently deposited alluvium and in lowland areas groups of catechu (Acacia catechu) with rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo) predominate, followed by groups of kapok (Bombax ceiba) with rhino apple trees (Trewia nudiflora), the fruits of which rhinos savour so much. Understorey shrubs of velvety beautyberry (Callicarpa macrophylla), hill glory bower (Clerodendrum sp.) and gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica) offer shelter and lair to a wide variety of species. Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands cover about 20% of the park’s area. More than 50 species are found here including some of the world’s tallest grasses like the elephant grass called Saccharum ravennae, giant cane (Arundo donax), khagra reed (Phragmites karka) and several species of true grasses. Kans grass (Saccharum spontaneum) is one of the first grasses to colonise new sandbanks and to be washed away by the yearly monsoon floods.
The wide range of vegetation types in the Chitwan National Park is haunt of more than 700 species of wildlife and a not yet fully surveyed number of butterfly, moth and insect species. Apart from king cobra and rock python, 17 other species of snakes, starred tortoise and monitor lizards occur. The Narayani-Rapti river system, their small tributaries and myriads of oxbow lakes is habitat for 113 recorded species of fishand mugger crocodiles. In the early 1950s, about 235 gharials occurred in the Narayani River. The population has dramatically declined to only 38 wild gharials in 2003. Every year gharial eggs are collected along the rivers to be hatched in the breeding center of the Gharial Conservation Project, where animals are reared to an age of 6–9 years. Every year young gharials are reintroduced into the Narayani-Rapti river system, of which sadly only very few survive.
Chitwan National Park is home to more than 68 mammal species. The "king of the jungle" is the Bengal tiger. The alluvial floodplain habitat of the Terai is one of the best tiger habitats anywhere in the world. Since the establishment of Chitwan National Park the initially small population of about 25 individuals increased to 70–110 in 1980. In some years this population has declined due to poaching and floods. In a long-term study carried out from 1995–2002 tiger researchers identified a relative abundance of 82 breeding tigers and a density of 6 females per 100 km2(39 sq mi). Information obtained from camera traps in 2010 and 2011 indicated that tiger density ranged between 4.44 and 6.35 individuals per 100 km2 (39 sq mi). They offset their temporal activity patterns to be much less active during the day when human activity peaked.
Leopards are most prevalent on the peripheries of the park. They co-exist with tigers, but being socially subordinate are not common in prime tiger habitat. In 1988, a clouded leopard was captured and radio-collared outside the protected area. It was released into the park, but did not stay there. Chitwan is considered to have the highest population density of sloth bears with an estimated 200 to 250 individuals. Smooth-coated ottersinhabit the numerous creeks and rivulets. Bengal foxes, spotted linsangs and honey badgers roam the jungle for prey. Striped hyenas prevail on the southern slopes of the Churia Hills. During a camera trapping survey in 2011, wild dogs were recorded in the southern and western parts of the park, as well as golden jackals, fishing cats, jungle cats, leopard cats, large and small Indian civets, Asian palm civets, crab-eating mongooses and yellow-throated martens. Rhinoceros: since 1973 the population has recovered well and increased to 544 animals around the turn of the century. To ensure the survival of the endangered species in case of epidemics animals are translocated annually from Chitwan to the Bardia National Park and the Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve since 1986. However, the population has repeatedly been jeopardized by poaching: in 2002 alone, poachers killed 37 individuals in order to saw off and sell their valuable horns.
Chitwan has the largest population of Indian rhinoceros in Nepal, estimated at 605 of 645 individuals in total in the country as of 2015. From time to time wild elephant bulls find their way from Valmiki National Park into the valleys of the park, apparently in search of elephant cows willing to mate. Gaurs spend most of the year in the less accessible Churia Hills in the south of the national park. But when the bush fires ease off in springtime and lush grasses start growing up again, they descend into the grassland and riverine forests to graze and browse. The Chitwan population of the world's largest wild cattle species has increased from 188 to 368 animals in the years 1997 to 2016. Furthermore, 112 animals were counted in the adjacent Parsa Wildlife Reserve. The animals move freely between these parks. Apart from numerous wild boars also sambar deer, red muntjac, hog deer and herds of chital inhabit the park. Four-horned antelopes reside predominantly in the hills. Rhesus monkeys, hanuman langurs, Indian pangolins, Indian porcupines, several species of flying squirrels, black-naped hares and endangered hispid hares are also present.
Every year dedicated bird watchers and conservationists survey bird species occurring all over the country. In 2006 they recorded 543 species in the Chitwan National Park, much more than in any other protected area in Nepal and about two-thirds of Nepal's globally threatened species. Additionally, 20 black-chinned yuhina, a pair of Gould's sunbird, a pair of blossom-headed parakeet and one slaty-breasted rail, an uncommon winter visitor, were sighted in spring 2008. Especially the park’s alluvial grasslands are important habitats for the critically endangered Bengal florican, the vulnerable lesser adjutant, grey-crowned prinia, swamp francolin and several species of grass warblers. In 2005 more than 200 slender-billed babblers were sighted in three different grassland types. The near threatened Oriental darter is a resident breeder around the many lakes, where egrets, bitterns, storks and kingfishers also abound. The park is one of the few known breeding sites of the globally threatened spotted eagle. Peafowl and jungle fowl scratch their living on the forest floor. Apart from the resident birds about 160 migrating and vagrant species arrive in Chitwan in autumn from northern latitudes to spend the winter here, among them the greater spotted eagle, eastern imperial eagle and Pallas's fish-eagle. Common sightings include brahminy ducks and goosanders. Large flocks of bar-headed geese just rest for a few days in February on their way north. As soon as the winter visitors have left in spring, the summer visitors arrive from southern latitudes. The calls of cuckoos herald the start of spring. The colourful Bengal pittas and several sunbird species are common breeding visitors during monsoon. Among the many flycatcherspecies the paradise flycatcher with his long undulating tail in flight is a spectacular sight.