Corbett National Park-named after the hunter turned conservationist Jim Corbett who played a key role in its establishment-is the oldest national park in India. The park was established in 1936 as Hailey National Park. Situated in Nainital district of Uttarakhand, the park acts as a protected area for the critically endangered Bengal tiger of India, the secure survival of which is the main objective of Project Tiger, an Indian wildlife protection initiative.
The park has sub-Himalayan belt geographical and ecological characteristics. An ecotourism destination, it contains 488 different species of plants and a diverse variety of fauna.
Corbett has been a haunt for tourists and wildlife lovers for a long time. Tourism activity is only allowed in selected areas of Corbett Tiger Reserve so that people get an opportunity to see its splendid landscape and the diverse wildlife. In recent years the number of people coming here has increased dramatically.
The Jim Corbett National Park is a heaven for the adventure seeker and wildlife adventure lovers. Corbett National Park is India's first national park which comprises 520.8 km2. area of hills, riverine belts, marshy depressions, grass lands and large lake. The elevation ranges from 1,300 feet to 4,000 feet. Winter nights in Corbett national park are cold but the days are bright and sunny. It rains from July to September.
Dense moist deciduous forest mainly consists of sal, haldu, pipal, rohini and mango trees, and these trees cover almost 73 per cent of the park.10 per cent of the area consists of grass lands. It houses around 110 tree species, 50 species of mammals, 580 bird species and 25 reptile species. The sanctuary was the first to come under Project Tiger initiative.
Some areas of the park were formerly part of the princely state of Tehri Garhwal. The forests were cleared to make the area less vulnerable to Rohilla invaders. The Raja of Tehri formally ceded a part of his princely state to the East India Company in return for their assistance in ousting the Gurkhas from his domain. The Boksas-a tribe from the Terai-settled on the land and began growing crops, but in the early 1860s they were evicted with the advent of British rule. The British forest department established control over the land and prohibited cultivation and the operation of cattle stations. The British administration considered the possibility of creating a game reserve there in 1907 and established a reserve area known as Hailey National Park covering 323.75 km2 (125.00 sq mi) in 1936. The preserve was renamed in 1954-55 as Ramganga National Park and was again renamed in 1955-56 as Corbett National Park. The new name honours the well-known author and wildlife conservationist Jim Corbett, who pla yed a key role in creating the reserve by using his influence to persuade the provincial government to establish it.
The reserve does not allow hunting, but does permit timber cutting for domestic purposes. Soon after the establishment of the reserve, rules prohibiting killing and capturing of mammals, reptiles and birds within its boundaries were passed. The park fared well during the 1930s under an elected administration. But during the Second World War, it suffered from excessive poaching and timber cutting. Over time the area in the reserve was increased-797.72 km2 (308.00 sq mi) were added in 1991 as a buffer for the Corbett Tiger Reserve. The 1991 additions included the entire Kalagarh forest division, assimilating the 301.18 km2 (116.29 sq mi) area of Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary as a part of the Kalagarh division. It was chosen in 1974 as the location for launching Project Tiger, an ambitious and well known wildlife conservation project. The reserve is administered from its headquarters in the district of Nainital.
Corbett National Park is one of the thirteen protected areas covered by World Wildlife Fund under their Terai Arc Landscape Programme. The programme aims to protect three of the five terrestrial flagship species, the tiger, the Asian elephant and the Great One-horned Rhinoceros, by restoring corridors of forest to link 13 protected areas of Nepal and India to enable wildlife migration.
The park is located between 29°25' to 29°39'N latitude and 78°44' to 79°07'E longitude. The average altitude of the region ranges between 360 m (1,181 ft) and 1,040 m (3,412 ft). It has numerous ravines, ridges, minor streams and small plateaus with varying aspects and degrees of slopes The park encompasses the Patli Dun valley formed by the Ramganga river.
The present area of the Reserve is 1318.54 km2. including 520 km2. of core area and 797.72 km2. of buffer area. The core area forms the Jim Corbett National Park while the buffer contains reserve forests (496.54 km2.) as well as the Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary (301.18 km2.)
The reserve, located partly along a valley between the Lesser Himalaya in the north and the Siwaliks in the south, has a sub-Himalayan belt structure. The upper tertiary rocks are exposed towards the base of the Siwalik range and hard sandstone units form broad ridges. Characteristic longitudinal valleys, geographically termed Doons, or Duns can be seen formed along the narrow tectonic zones between lineaments.
The weather in the park is temperate compared to most other protected areas of India The temperature may vary from 5 °C (41 °F) to 30 °C (86 °F) during the winter and some mornings are foggy Summer temperatures normally do not rise above 40 °C (104 °F) Rainfall ranges from light during the dry season to heavy during the monsoons.
A total of 488 different species of plants have been recorded in the park. Tree density inside the reserve is higher in the areas of Sal forests and lowest in the Anogeissus-Acacia catechu forests. Total tree basal cover is greater in Sal dominated areas of woody vegetation. Healthy regeneration in sapling and seedling layers is occurring in the Mallotus philippensis, Jamun and Diospyros tomentosa communities, but in the Sal forests the regeneration of sapling and seedling is poor.
Over 585 species of resident and migratory birds have been categorized, including the crested serpent eagle, blossom-headed parakeet and the red junglefowl - ancestor of all domestic fowl. 33 species of reptiles, seven species of amphibians, seven species of fish and 37 species of dragonflies have also been recorded.
Thick jungle, the Ramganga river, and plentiful prey make this reserve an ideal habitat for tigers who are opportunistic feeders and prey upon a range of animals. The tigers in the park have been known to kill much larger animals such as buffalo and even elephant for food. The tigers prey upon the larger animals in rare cases of food shortage, often in packs using the advantage of numerical superiority. The reserve has enormous boars, weighing up to 200 pounds, who provide a match for the tigers as a large male boar is capable of killing a tiger. There have been incidents of tigers attacking domestic animals in times when there is a shortage of prey.
Leopards are found in hilly areas but may also venture into the low land jungles. Smaller felines in the park include the jungle cat, fishing cat and leopard cat. Other mammals include four kinds of deer (barking, sambar, hog, Black buck and chital), Sloth and Himalayan Black bears, Indian Grey Mongoose, otters, yellow-throated martens, ghoral (goat-antelopes), Indian pangolins, and langur and rhesus monkeys. Owls and Nightjars can be heard during the night.
In the summer, elephants can be seen in herds of several hundred. The Indian python found in the reserve is a dangerous species, capable of killing a chital deer. Local crocodiles were saved from extinction by captive breeding programs that subsequently released crocodiles into the Ramganga river.
Though the main focus is protection of wildlife, the reserve management has also encouraged ecotourism. In 1993, a training course covering natural history, visitor management and park interpretation was introduced to train nature guides. A second course followed in 1995 which recruited more guides for the same purpose. This allowed the staff of the reserve, previously preoccupied with guiding the visitors, to carry out management activities uninterrupted. Additionally, the Indian government has organized workshops on ecotourism in Corbett National Park and Garhwal region to ensure that the local citizens profit from tourism while the park remains protected.
Dhikala: This well-known destination in Corbett is situated at the fringes of Patli Dun valley. There is a rest house here which was built more than a hundred years back. Kanda ridge forms the backdrop, and from Dhikala, one can enjoy the spectacular natural beauty of the valley.
Garjia Temple: It's located on the banks of river Kosi, nearly 14 km away from Ramnagar City. At the time of Kartik Poornima, a fair is held here. The temple is dedicated to Garjia Devi.
Elephant Safari: The ride on this majestic animal is one of the major attractions of Corbett National Park. Sitting on an elephant, like a royal, you go into the grasslands and jungles looking for tigers or a herd of wild elephants. Two times a day, Elephant safaris are arranged that starts from Dhikala-early morning and late afternoon.
Treks: Visitors are not allowed to have a walk inside the park, but are allowed to go for trekking around the park, but only with a guide. This place becomes very cold in the winter season, so tourists should make proper arrangements for themselves, if they are travelling in the winter season.
Kalagarh Dam: This dam is located in the south west direction of the Corbett wildlife sanctuary. This is one of the best places for bird watching trips. Lots of migratory waterfowl comes here in the winters.