Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Land of Trumpet, Roar and Song: JIM CORBETT

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Corbett has one of the highest densities of tigersCorbett National Park has captured the imagination of many with its diverse wildlife and breathtaking landscapes. The natural uniqueness of the area was recognised long ago and so in 1936 Corbett attained the distinction as the first national park to be established in mainland Asia.
Corbett National Park lies in two districts – Nainital and Pauri – in the hill state of Uttaranchal in northern India. It covers an area of 521 sq. km and together with the neighboring Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary and Reserve Forest areas, forms the Corbett Tiger Reserve over 1288 sq. km.

Chital, the commonest deer of CorbettIts geographical location between the Himalayas and the terai, and the streams, rivers and ridges
crisscrossing the terrain, present Corbett with a remarkable variety of landscapes. This vivid mosaic of habitats – wet and dry, plain and mountainous, gentle and rugged, forests and grasslands – supports numerous plant and animal species, representing Himalayan as well as plains kinds. The most famous of Corbett’s wild residents are the Bengal Tiger and the Asiatic Elephant, but with about 600 species of avifauna Corbett is one of the richest bird regions of India.
A herd of wild elephants in a chaur
Landscape and Geology

Himalayas and Shiwaliks

Mountains offer a great diversity of habitats due to variation in altitude, relief, and temperature. Consequently, mountain plant and animal communities have unique characteristics.

There are several species of snake in CorbettCorbett National Park is characteristic of the Himalayan mountain system. Corbett’s northern areas are lined by the Lesser Himalayan chain, which extends from Pakistan, through Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal, Uttaranchal, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and to Arunachal. The Lesser Himalayas are quite high, with an average altitude of 1800 m and are made up of crystalline rocks. The vegetation includes cold-climate tree species like pine, oak, and rhododendron. The Forest Rest House at Kanda at 1300 m is the highest point in the Park and is representative of the Lesser Himalayas.

However, most of the Park lies in the Outer-Himalayan or Shiwalik region. The Shiwaliks are the southernmost of the Himalayan ranges and are much lower than the Lesser Himalayas. They are formed of sedimentary rocks and are hence crumbly and unstable.  The Shiwaliks form the largest ridge across the park, running east to west from Dhangarhi to Kalagarh. These ridges are clothed by sal forests and other associates.

Between the Himalayan and Shiwalik mountain ranges lie elongated valleys called duns. Unlike typical river valleys, duns are formed not due to erosion but have a structural origin. They are covered with boulders and gravel originating from the erosion of the Himalayas and the Shiwalik uplands. One such dun occurs in the northern half of Corbett. This is the Patli Dun and is most visible from Dhikala. Kanda, being higher in the Park, presents a panoramic view of this valley.

Terai-bhabarTypical Shiwalik landscape

The southern boundary of Corbett flanks the ecologically important terai-bhabar region, a strip of land skirting the southern part of the Shiwaliks. It consists of the bhabar region, a narrow belt of sloping land located at the outer margin of Shiwaliks, and the terai swamplands that lie further south of bhabar.

The bhabar tract is porous because it consists mainly of gravel and boulders. It is devoid of streams or springs and water table is quite low. In contrast, the terai is swampy and humid, and contains many springs and slow-flowing streams. Most of the terai once held dense vegetation and was feared for malaria. It has been cleared for agriculture and is one of the most fertile grain production areas of India.

Together, the Terai-bhabar is a distinct ecological region, home to endangered wildlife such as the tiger, rhino, elephant, sloth bear, and vital habitat for for over 500 bird species. 


For the survival of such a remarkable gamut of floral and faunal species in Corbett National Park, water is a crucial factor. The Ramganga river forms the most prominent hydrological resource, supplemented by tributaries, most prominent of which are the Sonanadi, Mandal and Palain rivers. The river Kosi runs proximate to the Park and is also a significant water resource for nearby areas.

Wildlife is dependent on rivers, more so in the dry season, for they provide drinking water and also form home to several key aquatic species.


The Ramganga riverWithout the Ramganga river there would be no Corbett. It is the largest of the precious few perennial sources of water in the Park. In fact, for a brief period (from 1954 to 1957) the Park was known as Ramganga National Park.
A rain-fed river originating near Gairsain in the Lesser Himalayas, the Ramganga traverses more than 100 km before entering Corbett near Marchula. Inside the Park it flows roughly from east to west for 40 km till Kalagarh where it enters the plains. During this run through the Park it gathers waters from the Palain, Mandal and Sonanadi rivers.

A dam on the Ramganga at Kalagarh (built in the mid-1970s) forms a reservoir of about 80 sq. km. area, the backwaters of which reach till Dhikala. Downstream from Kalagarh the river meanders for another 300 The moon over Ramganga valleykm through the Indo-Gangetic plains and finally drains into the Ganga near Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh.

The Ramganga is inhabited by key aquatic species like mahseer fish, the endangered gharials, mugger crocodiles, otters and turtles. Many species of birds, like kingfishers, fish-eagles, terns and storks depend on the Ramganga. During winters the Ramganga reservoir attracts many migratory bird species, especially waterbirds from Europe and Central Asia.

The road from Dhangarhi to Dhikala runs along the Ramganga for most of its length. Forest Rest Houses at Gairal, Sarapduli, Khinanauli and Dhikala are situated alongside the Ramganga. The Dhikala watchtower is an ideal spot to view the Ramganga in the Patli Dun valley. At Crocodile Pool, High Bank and Champion’s Pool visitors can dismount from their vehicles and see the Ramganga closely. Kanda FRH, the highest rest house of the Park, provides a bird’s eye view of the Ramganga.


The Kosi is a perennial river like the Ramganga and its catchment lies partially in Corbett NP. From Mohan through Dhikuli till Ramnagar, the Kosi forms the eastern boundary of Corbett National Park. Even though the Kosi does not enter the Park boundary, wild animals from Corbett use it for drinking especially during pinch periods.

Its bed is strewn with boulders and its flow is erratic and often changes course. Kosi is notorious for its unpredictable and damaging torrents during monsoon.
Like Ramganga, the Kosi too is inhabited by mahseer and attracts migratory birds. At places Kosi has steep cliffs flanking its banks. At such spots one can see goral, the goat-like creatures, grazing on precipitous slopes.

The Sonanadi is an important tributary of the Ramganga. Named after this river the Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary adjoins Corbett National Park and forms an important part of the Corbett Tiger Reserve. The Sonanadi enters the Park from the northwest direction and meets the Ramganga at the reservoir.

The name ‘Sonanadi’ means ‘river of gold’. At one time grains of gold, found in the alluvial deposits washed down from the higher areas, were extracted from the bed sand by sieving, washing and mercury treatment.

Mandal and Palain

The Mandal rises in the eastern heights in Talla Salan in Chamoli district. Forming a part of the northeastern boundary, Mandal flows for 32 km and joins the Ramganga at Domunda a little distance above Gairal. During the dry season, the Mandal contains very little water but during the monsoons it turns into a furious torrent. It forms a vital breeding ground for the endangered mahseer.

The Palain is the third important tributary of the Ramganga and enters the Park from a northern direction. It meets the Ramganga about 3 km north of the submerged Boxar settlement at the Ramganga reservoir.

‘Sot’ is the local name for a seasonal stream. While traveling across the park you may cross several of these bouldery dry streams. Though most of them appear dry and lifeless, they are very important for Sot or seasonal streamthe Park ecology. Animals depend on these sots for their drinking water requirements for a good part of the year. There are some sots in Corbett that are perennial, important ones being Paterpani, Laldhang, Kothirao, Jhirna, Dhara and Garjia. Since water is a limiting factor, these perennial sots provide water to wildlife during pinch periods.
Sots also form passageways for animals. Many of these sots are covered with thick growth of evergreen shrubs and bamboo clumps which form ideal shelter for many animals including the tiger.
During monsoons, water flows in the sots in a powerful deluge and washes away forest roads and temporary bridges. This is the main reason that Corbett remains closed during the rainy season since roads and bridges have to repaired by the Forest Department after each monsoon.

Habitats and Ecosystems

The matrix of diverse geological features of Corbett has given rise to an equally varied set of communities of life forms that live in them. Such habitats, along with their resident flora and fauna, form distinct ecosystems that are recognizable when you travel through Corbett.


Mountain are vital habitatMountains are different from other landforms because they have an unusual variation in altitude, relief, temperature, slope and the amount of sunlight received. Therefore, there is great diversity in mountain habitats and mountain plant and animal communities have unique characteristics. However, mountain ecosystems are also delicate and unstable. Owing to the thinness of soil and the high propensity to erosion deforestation degrades mountains much swiftly and more irreversibly than other areas.

Mountain habitats show a zonation of floral and faunal patterns in terms of altitude. While ascending mountains, a number of different types of plant communities can be seen. The lower areas are usually broadleaved forests but higher up, coniferous trees appear. This zonation can also be seen in Corbett. The lower areas consist of sal and associated forests while as you go higher you encounter progressive belts of mixed forests, chir pine, oak and rhododendron. Accordingly, the fauna also varies and the higher reaches have animals like the Himalayan black bear and serow, which are absent lower down. This zonation is perhaps most evident in the kinds of birds encountered as you go higher.
Sal Forests

Sal (Shorea rubusta) is a handsome tree that grows up to 35 m tall and has a majestic, shining foliage. Sal is the main tree species of Corbett and often grows as dense forest. Sal forests represent tropical monsoon type of climate that occur in areas with 100-200 cm rainfall annually and grow at 200-1200 m above sea level.

Typical sal forest
These sal forests forms an important wildlife habitat throughout northern and central India. Being tall and robust sal trees allow several layers of vegetation to grow under or alongside them. Hence the sal forest ecosystem has a wide variety of trees, shrubs, herbs, climbers, fungi, lichens and mosses. Naturally, the life of many mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians is linked to sal forests directly or indirectly – for food or shelter.

In Corbett the sal forests are found around Panod nallah, Amgadi sot, Sajgadi sot, Gajar sot and Sultan, and also near Dhikala, Khinanauli, Bijrani and Mailani.

Khair-sissoo forests

Khair-Sissoo forest along riversEven though the sal forests dominate the Corbett landscape, there occur another distinct ecosystem near rivers and streams. This consists of Khair (Acacia catechu) and Shisham or Sissoo (Dalbergia sissoo) trees which grow on sandy, gravelly areas all along the Ramganga and other streams.

Khair and Sissoo are the first trees to come up on freshly exposed ground and newly deposited alluvium. They have special nodules on their roots that add nitrogen to the soil and improve fertility. Once khair-sissoo are established, they improve soil, add nutrients and control temperature and winds, and thus help more advanced vegetation to grow. The climax of this gradual process is the formation of sal forests and takes many decades, even centuries to culminate. Khair-sissoo forests provide shade and cover to large mammalians like sambar deer and also tiger and leopard. They also provide roosts and nesting places for birds.

These forests are found on sandy, gravelly areas all along the Ramganga and other streams, and are quite visible near Dhikala, Phulai, Patairpani and on Kanda road.


The sprawling chaur at CorbettProbably the most unique vegetation habitat of Corbett is the chaur, a local name for extensive savannah grasslands.

Chaurs are manmade clearings that were once used for agriculture but presently form a rich growth of various species of medium to tall grasses. These areas are favoured by elephants and deer and provide shelter to many grassland birds e.g. partridges. The presence of deer attracts tigers to chaurs. Hence, they are the best places to look for tigers.

Since chaurs form vital wildlife habitat, their maintenance is an important activity undertaken by the Park authorities. This is done during winter by a careful exercise of artificial burning. This induces a fresh growth of grasses that deer and other grazers feed upon.

The major chaurs of Corbett occur mainly in the Patli Dun area of the Park. The most important ones are: Dhikala, Phulai, Khinanauli, Paterpani, Mohanpani, Bijrani and Bhadhai. Another noted chaur, Boxar, now lies submerged under the Ramganga reservoir.

Rivers and Streams

The Ramganga and its tributaries, and the numerous sots form an important segment of the Corbett Rivers are Corbett's lifelinehabitat. Besides providing water they form home to many plant and animal communities. Many species of fish live in the perennial waters of the Ramganga and its tributaries. The most celebrated among them is the mahseer, with other known ones being the goonch, and several species of carps and loaches. These fish form an important food resource to many other animals higher up in the food chain.
Among fish feeders are otters that live on riverbanks and hunt fish in the Ramganga, Palain, Mandal and Sonanadi. Fish is also the staple diet for the endangered Gharials, crocodilians that are specialised fish-eaters. They live in deep, fast-flowing waters of the Ramganga. Another crocodile, the mugger inhabits still waters of the Ramganga reservoir. Corbett’s rivers attract specialist birds of prey like Pallas’ Fish Eagle and the rare Tawny Fish-owl. Other water dependent birds like kingfishers, cormorants, storks, terns, shanks, sandpipers, dippers, forktails etc. also frequent the Park’s rivers. During winters many long-distance migrant birds throng the Ramganga reservoir. These are mainly storks, herons, sandpipers, plovers, waterfowl (ducks and geese) and ospreys.

FLORAThe diverse flora of Corbett
The different habitat types of Corbett i.e. mountains, sal forests, chaurs, khair-sissoo forests, and rivers have their distinct assemblage of plants. More than 600 species of trees, shrubs, herbs, bamboos, grasses, climbers and ferns have been identified in the Park.
The most visible trees found in Corbett are sal, khair and sissoo (see Habitats and Ecosystems). Many other species that contribute to the diversity, are found scattered throughout the park.
New flowers on a treeChir pine (Pinus roxburghi) is the only conifer of the Park and is found on ridge-tops like Chir Choti but comes quite low in Gajar Sot. The upper reaches near Kanda have Banj Oak (Quercus leucotrichophora) growing which is essentially a Himalayan species.
Palms include Khajur or Date-palm (Phoenix sp.) that occurs in open areas. Wallachia densiflora is a rare palm characteristic of Eastern Himalayas but is found in Corbett near Sultan.
Kanju (Holoptelia integrifolia), Jamun (Syzygium cumini) and Aamla (Emblica officinalis) are found scattered throughout the lower areas while Tendu (Diospyros tomentosa) occurs in moist areas. Other major tree species are Bel (Aegle marmalos), Kusum (Schleichera oleosa), Mahua (Madhuca indica) and Bakli (Anogeissus latifolia).
Flowering trees lend colour to the forests in Corbett. The main ones are Kachnaar (Bauhinia variegata) with pink to white flowers, Semal (Bombax ceiba) with big red blooms, Dhak or Flame-of-the-forest (Butea monosperma) with bright orange flowers, Madaar or Indian Coral (Erythrinia indica) with scarlet red flowers and Amaltas (Cassia fistula) with bright yellow chandelier like blooms.
Some species of trees that do not occur naturally in the Park have been artificially planted in and around habitation. These include Teak (Tectona grandis), Eucalyptus, Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosaefolia), Silver Oak (Gravillea robusta) and Bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis), and can be seen in and around forest rest houses.
Flowers of HelicterisShrubs dominate the tree understorey and scrub areas. There are several species of Ber (Zizyphus sp.) in open areas and provide food and habitat to many birds and animals. Maror phali (Helicteres isora) is an easily noticeable shrub. Its fruits are in the form of twisted spiralling pods. Karaunda (Carissa sp.), with pinkish-white flowers and sour fruit, is found under sal. Hisar (Rubus ellipticus) has yellow, juicy, mulberry-like fruits that are savoured by animals.
Jhau (Tamarix dioica) is found along the Ramganga basin on sandy or rocky soil. Colebrookia oppsitifolia and Adhatoda vasica are found in nallahs.
In some parts of Corbett the vegetation is dominated by bamboo forest. The main species is Male Bamboo (Dendrocalamus strictus) having clustered stout stems and shining papery stem sheaths.
Bamboos follow a peculiar flowering process. All bamboos in a forest flower together at the same time once in several decades. After flowering, fruiting and dispersal of seeds, all individuals die together.
Herbs include many species of wildflowers belonging mostly to Pea and Aster families. They are most visible on grasslands or chaurs and on open areas.
Drymaria diandra is a spreading annual herb with heart shaped leaves and occurs in moist shady places. Bhilmora (Rumex hastatus) is a sour tasting herb used for making chutney. Other species encountered in Corbett are Euphorbia hirta, a hairy herb, Indigofera liniofolia with bright red flowers, Clover (Oxalis sp.) with three leaflets, Solanum sp. and Leonotis nepatafolia (orange flowers and spiky round fruits).
Corbett has over 70 grass speciesGrasses form the largest group of plant species in Corbett with more than 70 species recorded. They occupy different habitats, especially chaurs.
They include Kansi (Saccharum sp.), Themeda arundinacea, Baib or Bhabar (Eulaliopsis binata), Narkul (Arundo donax), Tiger Grass (Thysanolaena maxima), Khus Khus (Vetiveria zizanioides), Cymbopogon flexuosus (a tufted grass with pleasant aromatic leaves), Aristida cyanantha (found amidst boulders), Neyraudia arundinacea (with light brown inflorescence) and Heteropagon contortus (Spear Grass with conspicuous sharp blades that adhere to clothes and penetrates skin).
Woody climbers
Woody climbers found in the park are Milletia auriculata, Crypotepris buchanani, Porana paniculata (dense canopy with profuse white flowers), Clematis gouriana (shrubby twiner with tendril like branches) and Bauhinia vahlii (flat rusty hairy pods, large leaves used for making pattal)
Epiphytes and orchids
Epiphytes are plants that grow above the ground on other plants, and derive nutrients and water from rain, the air, dust, etc. They are found on sal and other trees in the park.
They include Dendrophthoe falcata (scarlet red flowers), Scurrula cordifolia (hairy coating on shoots and leaves), Vanda testacea (orchid with flat keeled leaves and beautiful spike flowers), Cuscuta reflexa (or ‘Dodder’, with interlaced yellow cord like habit, growing on shrubs).
Wetland vegetation
The semi aquatic species which inhabit marshy areas of Corbett include Polygonum, Veronica, Hypericum and Ranunculus etc.
Non-flowering plants Fungi help recycle nutrients
Non-flowering plants include ferns, mosses and lichens. Ferns occur in cool shady moist areas along streams. They include Adiantum, Pteris, Ophioglossum reticulatum (Snake-tongued Fern which occurs below Sal), Equisetum (found growing on sandbanks along streams). Many kinds of fungi are found on rotting trunks and accumulating debris. These include mushrooms, brilliantly patterned toadstools, and puffballs. The presence of lichens symbolises good air and environment and many kinds of colourful lichens grow on mature tree trunks and boulders all over Corbett. Liverworts and mosses are found on moist trunks.

Corbett has one of the highest densities of tigers
    Photo : Rajiv Bhartari
The tiger (Panthera tigris) is perhaps the most celebrated of the wild animals of India. It is symbolises the power of Nature and finds an important place in our culture, mythology and legends. It has been worshiped as the guardian and ruler of the forest.
Tigers are believed to have evolved in East Asia (China) about 2 million years ago. They then dispersed to other parts of Asia. There existed eight subspecies of tiger, out of which three have gone extinct.
Today this perfect carnivore is a critically endangered species, though once it roamed freely in most of Asia. India is home to the largest population of wild tigers in the world. There are estimated to be only 5000 to 7500 tigers surviving in the world. Out of these, the subspecies found in the Indian subcontinent, the Bengal tiger has 3000 to 4500 surviving members, more than three-fourths of which are in India.
The terai-bhabar region, including Corbett, was once the best place to find tigers but this habitat has reduced tremendously due to development-induced land use changes.
The tiger has always had a close association Corbett National Park – earlier through the writings of Jim Corbett and other shikaris and later because of the launch of Project Tiger, India’s tiger conservation programme, initiated from the Park’s soil on 1st April 1973.  
Tigers hunt deer (preferably sambar but also chital and barking deer) and wild boar. They choose the largest of the prey species since larger prey represents more energy for the effort spent. For this reason the sambar population density is believed to be a good indicator of the presence of tigers. Occasionally, tigers will also attack young of elephants and take smaller species, including monkeys, birds, reptiles and fish.
Adult tigers are usually solitary, except for females with cubs. However, sometimes several are sometimes seen together.
Generally, both female and male tigers maintain home ranges that do not overlap with the home range of another tiger of the same sex. Females have home ranges of approximately 20 sq. km while those of males are much larger, covering 60-100 sq. km. Male home ranges cover the territory of many smaller female home ranges. The male protects his territory and the females within it from competing males.
To mark their territories, tigers use several means of advertising this fact. Urine and anal gland secretions are sprayed on trees, bushes and rocks in various places throughout a particular area. They also make claw marks on trunks of trees. Such markings help avoid physical confrontation since any intruders in the territory recognise the owner’s scent and generally keep out.
Among the large cats in India tigers have the greatest reputation as man-eaters. Several legendary man-eating tigers have been known, especially during the terai-bhabar region. Such tigers have been immortalised through the writings of Jim Corbett. For example, the Champawat tiger is said to have killed 434 people before Corbett finally succeeded in killing it. However, in recent times, with the huge decline in the numbers of tigers, attacks on humans have been relatively rare. Man-eating is usually the result of a tiger’s inability to catch usual prey when it is too old to hunt or if it has an injury.
Being a carnivore and a master predator, the tiger lies on top of the food pyramid. It keeps the population of ungulates under control and thus maintains the ecological balance.
The tiger is an indicator of a healthy wilderness ecosystem. If the tiger is protected, our forests will also live. And forests mean good air and plenty of freshwater, both of which affect our own survival.

The Asian Elephant
The elephant, largest of the land mammals, has been an integral part of the history, mythology, tradition, culture and religion of India. There are three surviving species of elephants in the world, one in Asia and two in Africa. The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) is distributed in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Unlike the African species, Asian elephants have been domesticated for thousands of years and have been used in medieval warfare, for temples, and as a working animal.
A herd of wild elephants in a chaurThe Asian elephant was once found throughout south and southeast Asia but now it has been reduced to several scattered populations because of human activities like conversion of forest areas to farming, construction of dams and civil works like roads and canals. Apart from habitat constriction, these wide-ranging animals also face obstruction of their traditional migration routes. Poaching of elephants for ivory is another serious problem that elephants face.
Elephants are notable for their remarkable intelligence and a sharp memory. This is because elephants have the largest brains in the animal kingdom. Males have tusks and such elephants are commonly called “tuskers”. There are also some tuskless males, called “makhnas”. The trunk of an elephant is a most distinct and versatile organ and can be used for feeding and drinking, breathing, trumpeting, herding the young ones and sometimes even for fighting.
Asian elephants live in a variety of habitats. They prefer a combination of grassland, shrubbery, and forest.
Elephants are strictly vegetarian and prefer grasses, leaves, stems of trees, vines, bamboos and shrubs. Sometimes they also enter fields in the villages located near forests and raid crops.
Owing to its large size, and high forage requirements elephants are constantly on the move, searching for food. They undertake long-distance migrations and follow the same seasonal migratory routes generation after generation. However, in recent times the migratory routes have been encroached upon by human activities which has seriously affected their movement.
Elephants are social and live in groups consisting of females and their young and are led by the eldest and most experienced female. Living in herds is useful for collective defence, better care and teaching of young ones and increased mating opportunities. Adult males usually travel alone and associate with female herds for mating.
Corbett Tiger Reserve has about 700 Asian elephants. They are part of the migratory population that also lives in Rajaji National Park. Earlier, there were much fewer elephants in Corbett but their population in the park has increased significantly in recent decades. Although, present throughout the Park, elephants are most easily sighted in Dhikala chaur, Phulai chaur, and near the Saddle Dam.
Corbett has four species of deer. They are the most frequently sighted large mammals in the Park.
Chital, the commonest deer of CorbettChital (Axis axis) or Spotted deer is the commonest of deer species of Corbett. It is also the most beautiful, with characteristic white spots on its reddish-brown body. Only male chital have antlers that may grow up to 1 m length. These antlers are periodically shed and a new set developed every time.
Chital live in large herds and are usually seen in open grasslands. Grasses form the main food for chital but they also depend on fallen fruits, flowers and leaves from forested areas. They prefer to graze in short grasslands without much cover because in such areas they can watch out for predators like tigers. Tree cover is also required as shelter and source of food.
Chital are most active in early morning and evening and rest in cool places during the heat of the day. They give alarm calls to warn the herd when a potential threat or predator is sensed.
Chital are ecologically important because they form an important prey base for carnivores like leopards and tigers. They also help in dispersal of plant seeds including grasses and also tree and shrub species like amla, ber, etc.
Hog deer in chaurPara or Hog Deer (Axis porcinus) is the rarest of Corbett’s deer. It is closely related to the chital but is smaller in size. Unlike most other deer, the hog deer is not given to leaping over obstacles but instead, it escapes its predators by crouching low, ducking under obstacles. Its limbs are short and its hind legs are longer than the fore legs. This anatomy raises its rump to a higher level than the shoulders.
This species mostly inhabits grasslands, swampy areas and clearings and is usually nocturnal. Unlike chital, hog deer are solitary animals but sometimes feed in small groups. Hog deer face the threat of habitat destruction, especially draining of swampy areas and change in water regimes.
Sambar (Cervus unicolor) is the largest deer found in Corbett. Its body is largely a uniform greyish-brown in colour, except for the creamy white on the backsides and under-tail areas. Males have antlers up to 1 m long that are periodically shed and replaced. Male sambar also have dense manes on their necks.
Sambar is the largest deer of CorbettSambar are mostly found in dense forests with a gently sloping to steep topography. They are known to reach altitudes as high as 3,700 m. Sambar browse on leaves, berries, fallen fruit, leaves and tender bark of young trees, and also graze on grasses and sedges. These deer are mostly active solitary but may be found in small groups during the mating season.
They let out a loud, repetitive alarm call when they sense a threat. These signals are used by trackers to locate tigers.
Sambar is the most important prey species for the tiger and presence of sambar usually indicates a good tiger habitat.
Kakar or Barking Deer (Muntiacus muntjak) is the smallest of Corbett’s deer.
The body colour is golden tan on the dorsal (upper) side and is lighter on the undersides. Male kakar have short antlers growing on long, bony projections called burrs. In place of antlers, females possess only bony knob-like burrs on their head. Males also have tusk-like upper canine teeth curving sharply outwards from the lips.
Barking deer in forestKakar are mostly found in areas having dense vegetation and hilly terrain. They prefer to be close to water-sources. Kakar are omnivorous and feed on herbs, fruit, grass, tree-bark and also birds’ eggs and small animals. They are solitary and quite territorial.
Kakar emit a typical dog-like alarm “bark” when they sense the presence of a predator. Barking may carry on continuously for up to an hour. They are active both during daytime and at night.
They are a prey for tigers, leopards, jackals and pythons.
Other mammals
The Leopard (Panthera pardus) is the other large cat found in Corbett. Compared to the tiger leopards are smaller, more graceful and have a long agile body that has rosettes instead of stripes. It also has the ability to limb trees. Leopards are quite versatile, adaptable to a variety of terrains as well as to a broad range of prey that includes everything from insects and rodents up to large ungulates. Leopards mostly hunt during twilight hours and at night. They also ambush their prey by jumping down from trees.
The leopard’s call is termed as ‘saw’. Sawing can be described as a short rasping vocalisation.
When living near populated areas leopards will attack and kill livestock and domestic dogs. Sometimes, they also attack humans.
In spite of leopards being highly adaptable, they face many problems in survival. This includes habitat destruction, poaching for their skins, and persecution as killers.
There are two species of primates found in Corbett. The Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta) is theThe langurs are excellent climbers commonest monkey of the Indian subcontinent. It lives in a wide range of habitats – from plains to the Himalayas at elevations up to 3000 m – and is quite adaptable to humans. Its body is earthy brown in colour and buttocks are reddish. The Rhesus is quite a lively and vocal animal. It lives in large troupes of up to two hundred individuals. Large dominant males (called alpha males) lead these groups. It is omnivorous, and often eats roots, herbs, fruits, insects, crops, and small animals.
Hanuman or Common Langur (Semnopithecus entellus) has an unmistakable appearance - a light body, dark face and a very long tail. It is considered to be sacred in many parts of India and is found in many environments, from desert edge to forests.
Langurs are vegetarian and feed mainly on leaves, buds, flowers, fruit, and seeds. Feeding activity is generally in the early morning and late afternoon.
Like monkeys, langurs too live in troupes led by dominant males. In the trees, they are remarkably agile and can make horizontal leaps of 3-5 m.
Himalayan Goral or Ghural (Nemorhaedus goral) is a goat-like animal that occurs in the Himalayas between 1,000 to 4,000 m. It lives in small groups on sparse mountainous slopes and cliff faces with crevices. It is remarkably sure footed and can move at high speeds even over near vertical terrain. Goral are active at dawn and dusk when they come to feed on grasses, leaves, twigs, nuts and fruit.
Mostly grey to brown in colour, the goral has a lighter coloured ‘bib’ at the base of the neck and sports short, conical, backward-curving horns having irregular ridges. Goral are well camouflaged, and thus are very difficult to spot, especially when they are still.
Wild boar (Sus scrofa) is the ancestor of the domesticated pig that lives in moist forests and scrub. It has long, curved canine teeth (called tusks) that are used for digging food and as weapons. Wild boar feed on roots, tubers, fruits, shrubs, bird eggs, insects, mice, snakes, frogs and carrion. They usually move in groups both at day and night.
Jackals can be seen near forest rest housesThe Asiatic Jackal (Canis aureus) is a member of the dog family. It is found in open country, short grasslands and has also adapted to living near human settlements.
It comes out during the night to forage for food. Its omnivorous diet consists of deer fawns, rodents, hares, birds, eggs, reptiles and amphibians and various fruits especially ber and jamun. The jackal is also an opportunistic scavenger, readily raiding garbage bins.
Corbett is one of the few places in India where three species of otter are found existing together. Otters are an important component in the ecology of the Park, especially the Ramganga and its tributaries. Otters are indicators of a healthy river ecosystem. These small carnivores are a part the aquatic food chain and live mostly along riverbanks, spending a lot of their time in water. They make dens among rocks and boulders along perennial streams and rivers.
The species of otters occurring in Corbett Park are Eurasian or Common otter (Lutra lutra monticola), Smooth-coated otter (Lutra perspicillata) and Small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinerea). Fish forms the majority of the otters’ diet, except in case of Small-clawed otter, which primarily feeds on insects and other invertebrates.
Otters face threat of elimination of habitat due to construction of dams, intensive fishing, quarrying in rivers for stone and gravel and land use changes for agriculture or prawn cultivation. Poaching in the hilly regions of India for otter skins is also a threat.
Birds Corbett has an amazing diversity of birds of prey
The great variety of habitat in Corbett is reflected in its impressive diversity in the bird life. Over 600 species, many of them rare and endangered, have been recorded in and around the park. these include nearly fifty kinds of birds of prey that provide a unique character to the avifauna.
This inherent richness in bird life increases even further during winter with the arrival of numerous migrants – some, like osprey and ducks, coming all the way from East Africa, Europe and Central Asia. Winter also brings many Himalayan birds from higher regions who come to take refuge in Corbett to escape the extreme conditions in the mountains above. These include many flycatchers, great barbet and the wallcreeper.

Gharial and Mugger
Corbett is one of the best places to see gharialsCorbett has two of India’s three crocodilian species. It is considered to be one of the best spots to see the Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), one of the largest and most endangered crcodilians of the world. It is found only in the Indian subcontinent. It gets its name from the ‘ghara’ or pot like structure on the snout that is present only in males.
The gharial’s slender snout is adapted to eat fish so it does not attack humans or larger mammals. Young gharials may eat invertebrates and insects.
About 100 gharials live in the Ramganga and can be seen swimming in its deep pools or basking in the sun on its banks. These were released as part of the conservation programme for gharials. Though it has been saved from extinction, the gharial is still critically endangered. The main threats are – loss of habitat (fast-flowing rivers) and nesting sites (sandbanks) due to construction of dams and barrages which changes the flowage of water and exploitation of fish by humans (depletion of prey species).
The still waters of Corbett, especially the Ramganga reservoir, are home to the Mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris). Muggers are more general carnivores and take a variety of animals as food. Muggers are also found in Nakatal, Corbett’s only lake.

Mahseer and other Fishes

Corbett is home to many species of freshwater fish. The Ramganga, Palain, Sonanadi and Mandal rivers, provide vital habitat and breeding grounds for them because of moderate temperature, low gradient, presence of deep pools and boulders and gravel on stream beds, and negligible pollution. Fish form a fundamental link in the food chain for many key species like the gharial, otters, fish-eagles, kingfishers, ospreys, storks, fish-owls, egrets, darters and pelicans.
The most celebrated of the fishes is the Golden Mahseer (Tor putitora), a large freshwater river fish belonging to the carp family. It has a magnificent appearance – sap green body with bright orange scales. Mahseer is considered to be one of the most prized fish for anglers all over the world.
Clean water, which is increasingly becoming rarer, is the prime habitat requirement for the mahseer. Its population has declined due to loss of habitat. Loss of breeding grounds also poses a threat because mahseer require shallow, clear, well-oxygenated water for spawning, which again is hard to find these days. Decline of mahseer is also due to construction of dams on their migratory routes, obstructing access to favoured spawning areas upstream. The Ramganga is one of the best-preserved rivers for mahseer in India. Other important fish species of Corbett are Goonch (Bagarius bagarius), Indian trout (Barilius bola) and Rohu (Labeo rohita)
Sustainable angling, as opposed to intensive fishing, benefits conservation of prized fishes like mahseer. Angling is allowed in certain areas in the buffer region of Corbett after taking permits from the Forest Department.


There are several species of snake in CorbettReptiles live in a great variety of habitats. But apart from the gharial and mugger the other reptiles of Corbett have not been studied in great detail. Several species of snakes have been reported from here, including the King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) and Indian Cobra (Naja naja). Indian Rock Pythons (Python molurus) are frequently sighted and there also exist several kinds of vipers, kraits and boas.
The Bengal Monitor (Varanus bengalensis) is the most imposing of Corbett’s lizards. The list includes nine other species of Agamas, Geckos and Skinks
Amphibians occupy a wide range of niches from forest floor to freshwater swamp, and from urban areas to mountain torrents. As of now, there are seven species of toad and frog occurring in the Park. 


Corbett is rich in both natural and cultural heritageCorbett isn’t just about Nature. It is also a rich treasure of history and cultural heritage. The park has a long tradition of conservation. The fact that it is the oldest National Park of the Asia and India’s first Tiger Reserve itself symbolises that Corbett is a pioneer in efforts at preserving our natural heritage.

The great naturalist-writer Jim Corbett needs little introduction. His writings have fascinated generations of wildlife enthusiasts and he still commands no less appeal nowadays. The areas in and around the present day Corbett National Park were the stage for his exciting adventures in wilderness. Most of his man-eater hunting expeditions also took place in the same areas. Jim Corbett lived in Kaladhungi, where his house has been made into a Museum dedicated to his life and times.

Besides being located at a biogeographic confluence, Corbett National Park is situated at the junction of two distinct hill regions of Uttaranchal – Garhwal and Kumaon. Hence, the Park represents a synthesis of cultures of both these mountain areas.

information FOR VISITORS

Corbett attracts more than 70,000 tourists every yearCorbett has been a haunt for tourists and wildlife lovers for a long time. Tourism is allowed in selected areas of Corbett Tiger Reserve so that people get an opportunity to see its splendid landscape and the diverse wildlife living here. 

In recent years the number of people coming here has increased dramatically. Presently, every season more than 70,000 visitors come to the park from India and abroad.

General Information
  • Altitude: 385-1100 m above mean sea level
  • Annual rainfall: 1400-2800 mm.
  • Temperature range: 4°C in winter to 42°C during summer.
When to Visit

Corbett remains open to tourists from 15th November to 15th June. The main reason for closure of the Park during the rest of the year is that during the monsoons most of the roads get washed away. Repair work starts after the rains end and it is only by November that roads are back in motorable condition.
Getting there

The town of Ramnagar forms the headquarters of Corbett Tiger Reserve. It is well connected to important places by road and rail.

By Road: Ramnagar is connected by road to Delhi, Moradabad, Bareilly and Naintial. State transport buses ply regularly from Delhi, Moradabad, Haldwani to Ramnagar. The approach routes are:

Delhi-Gajrola-Moradabad-Kashipur-Ramnagar       (240 km)
Bareilly-Kichha-Haldwani-Ramnagar                        (160 km)

By Rail: A direct train to Ramnagar runs from New Delhi. Alternatively, one can come upto Haldwani/Kashipur/Kathgodam and come to Ramnagar by road.
Tourism zones

For the convenience of visitors and streamlining tourism management Corbett Tiger Reserve has been divided into five mutually exclusive tourism zones, each having separate gate for entry.
Tourism zone
Khara, Kalagarh

Travelling inside the Park
Hired Gypsies are a popular means of travelling in CorbettVisitors can move about in vehicles inside the park area after making entries at the respective gates. Tourists are not allowed to use their own vehicles inside the park.

Walking or trekking inside the park is not allowed except at certain places.

Specific trails for vehicles are maintained to enable visitors to watch wildlife at Corbett. Driving off track it is not allowed for reasons of safety. It is to be noted that driving after sunset is strictly prohibited. 

The distance to various places in Corbett from Ramnagar are:
Distance (km)
Amdanda Gate
Dhangarhi Gate
Durgadevi Gate
Rathuadhab (via Durgadevi)
Kanda (via Durgadevi)
Vatanvasa Gate
Khara Gate
Nainital (via Kaladhungi)

FACILITIES for visitors at corbett

Food and Canteen

Canteens are located at Dhikala, Gairal and Bijrani. However, at other places where this facility is not available cooking utensils and crockery are have been provided for visitors to carry their rations and cook their own their own meals. Consumption of non-vegetarian food and alcohol is strictly prohibited inside the park.

Interpretive Facilities and ServicesElephant rides offer a unique experience

For the purpose of directing visitors and showing them around Corbett, trained Nature Guides are available at their service. These registered guides help tourists spot wildlife and make sure that they do not lose their way inside the forest. Taking a Nature Guide with each vehicle is compulsory.

The authorities at Corbett Tiger Reserve have maintained a Visitor Centre and Museum at Dhangarhi Gate. This complex is equipped with displays, exhibits and models for the benefit of visitors to orient them and enable them to understand the history and biodiversity of Corbett. This facility is accessible to everyone, even if they don’t go inside the park, and remains open throughout the year.

Elephant rides are offered at Dhikala, Khinanauli, Bijrani, Gairal and Jhirna during mornings and evening so that tourists can get a closer view of the jungle, its wildlife, and landscape.

Wildlife watchtower in the forest
There are
watchtowers at Dhikala, Phulai and Jhirna, and several machans near Dhikala, Bijrani and kothirauKothirau to facilitate the viewing of wildlife.

During evenings the lodgers at Dhikala and Bijrani can enjoy films on wildlife that are screened to provide an educative entertainment to visitors.

Dhikala also has a well-stocked library, which has a fine collection of books concerning wildlife and general topics. 

  • Please enter the Park only after taking the necessary permits and follow all the rules.
  • Please obtain services of Nature Guides that the Park has trained for your benefit. They are of great help to you in spotting wildlife and ensuring that you do not lose your way in the forest.
  • Drive slowly in the Park. In this way you can see, observe and enjoy the most, without disturbing wildlife.
  • Keep to the specified roads and trails. Driving off track you may trample growing trees and cause disturbance to resting animals and their young.
  • Respect the wild animals and maintain a safe distance from them. Remember, you are in their home and they get first priority.
  • Listen to the music of the forest instead of your car stereo or transistor. The quieter you are, the more the chances of your seeing wildlife.
  • Wear dull-coloured clothes. Bright colours alarm most wild animals and they flee.
  • Don’t carry guns. Feel free to shoot with a camera instead.
  • Do not smoke or light campfires in the forest. Accidental fires can destroy this wonderful jungle in no time.
  • Don’t get off your vehicle at any point in the Park except where it’s allowed. This is for your own safety and the safety of wildlife.
  • The Park is not a zoo; so don’t expect to see wildlife everywhere. Corbett is breathtaking even in its scenery.
  • Do not be disappointed if you don’t see a tiger. There are many other interesting creatures that are to be seen and cherished.
  • Having alcohol and non vegetarian food is not allowed.
  • Help keep the park pollution-free. While inside the park, please put your entire non-biodegradable litter (tin cans, plastic, glass bottles, metal foils etc.) into the bag provided and dispose of it on your way out.

    Sal forest during leaf-fall at Thandi Sarak Winter mist at sunrise from Patairpani Sunrise from Dhikala 
    Winter morning - Dhikala Sunrise from Dhikala Ramganga from Gorkha Sot Dhikala chaur 
    Ramganga viewed from Crocodile Pool  Ramganga viewed on way to Gairal Ramganga viewed from Sarapduli Ramganga from Sambhar Road, Dhikala
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