COUNTRY India - Uttar Pradesh

NAME Corbett National Park


BIOGEOGRAPHICAL PROVINCE 4.08.04 (Indus-Ganges Monsoon Forest)

GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION Lies in the foothills of the Outer Himalaya within the districts of Nainital and Pauri Garhwal, and occupies the middle reaches of the Ram Ganga. The national park is bounded to the east by the Ramnagar-Ranikhet road, to the south and south-west by the Kotdwara-Ramnagar forest road, to the north-west by Ramganga Reservoir and to the north-east by various topographical features within the catchment area of the Ram Ganga. Boundaries are defined in Notification No. 4229/ZIV-A-867-62 of 24 August 1966. 29*25'-29*39'N, 78*44'-79*07'E

DATE AND HISTORY OF ESTABLISHMENT Established as India's first national park on 6 August 1936, being the date on which the Uttar Pradesh National Parks Act came into force, and named Hailey National Park after Sir William Malcolm Hailey, then Governor of Uttar Pradesh, who was instrumental in its creation. Following independence, its named was changed to Ramganga National Park in 1954 and then in 1957 to its present name Corbett National Park, in memory of Jim Corbett, the legendary hunter and naturalist who had helped in marking out its boundaries and setting it up. With the launching of 'Project Tiger' on 1 April 1973, Corbett National Park was selected as one of the nine tiger reserves, and has the distinction of being chosen as the venue for the inauguration of this project on 1 February 1974.

AREA 52,082ha. The area of the national park was increased from 32,375ha to its present size in 1966, to enhance its integrity and to compensate for the land due to be submerged with the construction of a hydel dam at Kalagarh.

There are proposals to enlarge the national park by about 12,900ha and create a new buffer zone of about 85,000ha through the establishment of a wildlife sanctuary, and to establish a corridor of protected areas between Corbett and the proposed Rajaji National Park in the north-west (Panwar, 1985).

LAND TENURE Provincial government

ALTITUDE Ranges from about 400m to the peak of Kanda at 1,210m on the northern extremity.

PHYSICAL FEATURES The national park extends from the Outer Himalaya, locally represented by the Siwaliks which run through its middle in an east-west direction, across Patli Dun to the foothills of the Middle Himalaya. The Siwaliks are distinct from the Himalaya, being formed from the latter's erosion products of sand, gravel and conglomerates, but are scarcely distinguishable here in western Kumaon because they abut almost directly onto the Himalayan chain. Patli Dun is an elevated valley with a virtually level floor through which flows the Ram Ganga, the only source of perennial water. This river flows westwards and widens beyond Khinanauli, giving rise to islands known as 'sheeshum islands' colonised by sheeshum Dalbergia sissoo. West of Dhikala, the sheeshum islands give way to winding strips of alluvial grassland or 'chauds', being land that was cultivated in historic times. The chauds provided important grazing for wildlife but, with the completion of the Kalagarh Dam in 1974, they and the sheeshum islands have been inundated as far back as Khinanauli. The reservoir, which was filled to capacity by 1979-1980, covers 4,220ha of prime wildlife habitat. Geological strata consist of: recent alluvial and slightly older 'bhabar' deposits; Siwalik Series, with conglomerate, sandrock and Nahan sandstone; and older Himalayan rocks, mostly of dark blue-grey limestone with a few grits and shales and confined to part of Kanda Block. Soils tend to be sandy and shallow on the southern slopes of the Siwaliks, sandy or sandy with loam on northern slopes, and deep, fresh and stony in the duns(Singh, 1974; Singh, 1985; Lamba, n.d.).

CLIMATE There are three distinct seasons: cold (November to February), hot (March to mid-June) and rainy (mid-June to October). Mean monthly maximum temperatures range from 26*C in January to 44*C in June, and minimum temperatures from 2*C in January to 21*C in August, based on data for 1980-1984. Annual rainfall varies from 1400mm in the outer hills to 2800mm in the upper hills, with 1500-1600mm in the main Ram Ganga Valley (Singh, 1985). Conditions are humid throughout the year, relative humidity rising to 98% in the monsoon and seldom falling below 57% even in the driest period (November). A wind locally known as 'dadu' blows down the valley from about 9 p.m. to 8 a.m., lowering the night temperature. In the hot season, it is followed by a hot wind blowing up-valley from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. During this season a thick haze of suspended dust develops which is only cleared by thunderstorms (Lamba, n.d.). There are 13 meteorological stations in the national park, with recordings dating back to 1978 (Singh, 1985).

VEGETATION The park is notable for its extensive sal Shorea robusta forests which cover nearly 73% of its entirety (Singh, 1985). A frequent associate of sal is haldu Adina cardifolia. On higher ridges bakli Anoqeissus latifolia is predominant, and the other associates are khetwa Piliostigma malabaricum, gurial Bauhinia racemosa, pula Kydia calycina, dhauri Legerstroemia parviflora, amaltas Cassia fistula, bhilawa Semicarpus anacardium, amla Emblica officinalis and ber Ziziphus mauritiana and the less common species are papri Holoptelea integrifolia, kumbhi Carya arborea and mahwa Madhuca indica. Trichoniya Wendlandia heynei, rohni Mallotus philippinensis and jamun Syzygium cumini occur along dry river beds in exposed areas. The Dalgeria sissoo-Acacia catechu association along the Ram Ganga is a notable feature. Amongst the shrubs Clerodendrum viscosum, Colebrookis oppositifolia, Adhatoda vasica, Helictceros isora and Woodfordia fruticosa are predominant, while climbers such as Milletia auriculata, Cryptolepis buchanani, Porana paniculata, Phanera vahlii and Vallaris solanacea are common. Bamboos are common in some areas. Palms include Phoenix acauliea and the rare Wallichia densiflora. The only indigenous conifer is chir Pinus roxburghii. Grasses such as Themeda arundinacea, Thysanolena maxima and Vetiveria zizanioides are abundant in the chauds of Patli Dun, while on burnt soil they are associated with herbs such as Vicoa indica, Trichodesma indicum, Lactuca sp., Crotalaria sp., Desmodium sp. and Polygala sp. In the other open areas common grasses include Eulaliopsis binata, Apluda mutica, Oplismenus compositus and Eragrostis uniloides. The comparatively rare ground orchids Zeuxine sp. and Eulophia sp., and also the dwarf understorey shrub Pygmae opremna herbacea have a scattered distribution. Common weeds are Lantana sp., Acanthospermum hispidum and Xanthium strumericum (Lamba, n.d.). A more detailed description of the vegetation is given by Singh (1974), Pant (1977) and Jain and Sastry (1983). Floral lists are given by Singh (1974), Pant (1977), Bedi (1985) and, in the case of woody plants and grasses, by Lamba (n.d.).

FAUNA The national park is noted for its rich and diverse fauna, with 50 species of mammals (Lamba, n.d.), 575 of birds (Lamba, n.d.), 33 of reptiles (Bedi, 1985), seven of amphibians (Bedi, 1985), seven of fish (Bedi, 1985) and 37 of dragonflies (Singh and Prasad, 1977).

Corbett is an important refuge for Indian elephant Elephas maximus (E). Also notable among the large mammals are leopard cat Felis bengalensis, tiger Panthera tigris (E), wild dog Cuon alpinus (V), hog deer Cervus porcinus, and Indian pangolin Manis crassicaudata, all of which used to exist in large numbers throughout the terai of Uttar Pradesh but are now rarely seen outside the national park. The swamp deer Cervus duvauceli (E) became locally extinct about 20 years ago. More recently, spotted deer Cervus axis, hog deer and Indian porcupine Hystrix indica populations have been severely affected by the inundation of much grassland. Although spotted deer and hog deer populations have dispersed elsewhere, the former has shown a fall in birth rate from 22.2 to 4.1 fawns per 100 females in three years. Worst affected is the porcupine population. By 1978 its relative density had dropped to 20% of that recorded in 1976-77. The creation of a reservoir has also denied elephants access to an important traditional migration route (Lamba, n.d.). Estimates of population sizes for large mammals in 1983/1984 are: 92 tiger, 48 leopard, 137 elephant, 11,986 spotted deer, 2,255 sambar, 76 hog deer, 310 muntjac Muntiacus muntjac, 38 sloth bear Melursus ursinus (I), 1,374 wild boar Sus scrofaand 285 goral Nemorhaedus goral (Singh, 1985).

The avifauna is particularly interesting on account of the overlap between high altitude and plains, and eastern and western races of a number of species. The park attracts a large number of migratory birds. The river is a source of attraction to many winter migrants. A number of high altitude species visit during winter, and summer too sees many visitors. Being situated on a migratory route, the park is also visited by quite a few passage migrants. Among the birds that have suffered heavily on account of large-scale inundation are the passerines that roost and breed in smaller trees, bushes and reed-beds, notably red ardvart Estrilde amandava, spotted munia Lonchura punctuta, weaver bird Ploceus philippinus, black-throated baya P. bengalensis and common myna Acridotheres tristis. These changes in habitat, however, have benefitted a large number of resident and migratory water birds. Populations of cormorants Phalacrocorax spp., darters Anhinga rufa, herons and egrets (Ardeidae), storks (Ciconidae), fishing eagles Haliaeetus leucoryphus and Icthyophaga nana, and kingfishers (Alcedinidae) have increased many fold, while gulls Larus spp. and moorhen Gallinula chloropus have since become residents (Lamba, n.d.).

Of the reptiles, both mugger Crocodylus palustris (V) and gharial Gavialis gangeticus (E) are present. From an estimated 16 mugger and four gharial in the national park in 1974 (Whitaker, 1974), numbers had increased to 37 and 17, respectively, by 1983 (Singh, 1985). The increase in the gharial population was due to the release of 12 young reared in captivity. Further increases in the mugger population are anticipated now that it breeds in Ramganga Reservoir (Bedi, 1985).

CULTURAL HERITAGE Patli Dun was formerly part of the princely state of Tehri Garhwal. At that time its forests were cleared to make the area less vulnerable to attacks from the Rohilas. Later, the Raja of Tehri ceded part of his state to the British in return for their assistance in driving out the Gurkhas. Boksas, tribals from the terai, settled in the area and practised shifting cultivation, but they were evicted in the early 1860s under Major Ramsay (Singh, 1974; Bedi, 1985; Singh, 1985).

LOCAL HUMAN POPULATION There are no settlements within the national park. About 7-8 villages on the boundary have grazing rights inside the national park. A large settlement has been established at Kalagarh under the Ramganga Dam project (Singh, 1985).

VISITORS AND VISITOR FACILITIES The national park has become increasingly popular among tourists, both national and foreign. Numbers have increased from just over 5,000 in 1971-72 to nearly 20,000 in 1983-84, with the proportion of nationals progressively increasing from about 80% to over 90% during this period (Singh, 1985). Corbett is accessible via Ramnagar, the main entrance at Dhangarhi being 19km to the north and the tourist complex at Dhikala a further 32km. It is open from 15 November to 15 June, being inaccessible during the monsoon. Accommodation is available at Dhikala (103 beds) and there are a number of forest rest houses elsewhere in the national park (48 beds). There is also provision for caravans and tents. The park information centre and Project Tiger Office are located at Ramnagar. A Jim Corbett Museum has been established in his former home at Kaladhungi, 32km from Ramnagar on the Nainital road.

SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND FACILITIES Early research includes studies of predator-prey relations (Schaller, 1965) and of the ungulate populations, principally spotted deer (De and Spillet, 1966). The hog deer (Tak and Lamba, 1981) and spotted deer (Tak and Lamba, in press) populations have been studied more recently. The first stage (1976-1979) of an assessment of the impact of the Ramganga Dam on the fauna has been completed (Lamba, n.d.). Populations of the large mammals and reptiles are censused annually (Singh, 1985).

CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT Corbett contains extensive sal forests and a rich and diverse flora and fauna, including large and important populations of tiger and elephant. Moreover, it is free from human settlements.

Forestry operations continued under the prescriptions of the working plans until 1975 when the entire territorial jurisdiction of the national park was transferred to Project Tiger, leaving only wildlife tourism under the control of the State's Wild Life Preservation Organisation. Following recommendations made in the first management plan (Singh, 1974), the national park has been zoned into core and buffer areas of 32,998ha and 19,084ha, respectively. The core zone is strictly protected for research, while tourism is confined to the buffer zone. Grazing and lopping has been stopped throughout the park and is restricted to a narrow strip along the periphery where villagers have rights under the Indian Forest Act. Attempts are underway to relocate villages from the periphery of the park to forests some 30-40km (Singh, 1985).

In a recent examination of management requirements, the two essential needs in the long-term are considered to be enlargement of existing core and buffer zones, and protecting the corridor of uninterrupted forest between Corbett and Rajaji national parks to enable elephants to migrate between the two areas (Panwar, 1985).

MANAGEMENT PROBLEMS The Ramganga River Project at Kalagarh has lead to a significant change in the character of the national park, with wetland replacing largely grassland habitat over an extensive area. Long-term changes, particularly with regard to the fauna, are being monitored (Lamba, n.d.).

Fires are a perennial problem, commonly occurring from early March until the start of the monsoon sometime in June. Attempts to control fires date back to 1865, but met with little success until 1876-1877 with the creation of a network of fire-lines (Singh, 1974). With the establishment of a radio network and fire-fighting squads, under Project Tiger, serious damage from summer fires is now a relatively rare occurrence. The last extensive fires were in 1980 and 1984 when 29% and 17% of the national park, respectively, was affected, but with little damage to trees (Singh, 1985). Fire is an important management tool, both in the maintenance of grasslands for herbivores and in controlling the accummulation of inflammable material on forest floors (Panwar, 1985).

The biggest problem in the core area is infestation by weeds, notable Lantana and Canabis. Trained elephants are being used to remove the former, pulling plants out by the root stock. Being an annual, eradition of Canabis is more easily achieved by repeated cutting prior to flowering (Panwar, 1985).

The tourist complex at Dhikala, in the heart of the national park, is not only a major source of disturbance but also appropriates a sizeable chunk of prime grassland habitat. Its relocation has been mooted (Panwar, 1985). Visitors can be a menace, behaving in a manner that is incompatible with viewing wildlife (Kaur, 1985).

Poaching is not a great problem, although dynamiting and illicit netting of fish in the Ram Ganga is frequent (Singh, 1985). Water is a limiting factor in the dry season, shortages sometimes causing animals to move to peripheral areas of the park where they are more at risk from hunting. Artificial waterholes of various types have been constructed in various localities throughout the park (Panday and Singh, 1985).

Recently proposed developments, which would add to existing pressures on the national park, include construction of a tunnel to connect Kosi with the Ram Ganga and the establishment of a BHEL factory at Kalabagh in quarters previously used by Irrigation Department staff. The latter has been sanctioned by the State Industries Department but is not permissible under either the Wildlife (Protection) Act or the Forest Conservation Act (Singh, 1985).

STAFF Field director, deputy director, wildlife warden, ? assistant wildlife wardens, research officer, ? wildlife guards and ? others including administrative staff (1987/1988).

BUDGET Rs ? lakh, of which Rs ? lakh is from the State Government and the rest from Central Government (1987/1988).

LOCAL ADMINISTRATION Field Director, Corbett National Park, P O Ramnagar 244 715, District Nainital, Uttar Pradesh


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    DATE January 1985, reviewed January 1988