Monday, August 20, 2007

Sariska Tiger Reserve

The 300 square miles of Sariska Tiger Reserve is one of the last sizable remnants of the dry hilly country which once stretched across the length of the Aravalli hills. This hunting preserve of the Maharaja of Alwar was declared a sanctuary in 1955, and when Project Tiger was born in 1979, Sariska Sanctuary was merged into it. Sariska Tiger Reserve has been through immense pressure due to poaching, mining activities in the area as mentioned above and also due to sheer neglect by government authorities.
Sariska Tiger Reserve
The forest vegetation has degraded, the wild life is vanishing and the water sources are drying away. It was felt by many that the richness of the forest was lost forever and it was declared a lost battle. It was then that the villagers around the reserve who depended on the same ecosystem that nurtured the wildlife took upon themselves the task of reviving the forest.

¤ Flora & Fauna

Sariska Tiger Reserve forest is dry deciduous, represented by dhok (Anogeissus pendula), khair (Acacia catechu), tendu (Diospyros melanoxylon) and ber (Zizyphus maudrentiana). It remains lush green during the monsoon period and dry in summer.

¤ Tiger Population In The Sariska Tiger Reserve

Today the tiger population in Sariska is around 25 (as per government census of 1995). That's not much, but it's also not bad considering the fact that tiger population is shrinking everywhere. The best time to spot tigers is in summer, when they move to waterholes and there's not much foliage to camouflage their stripes. In Sariska, these waterholes have been constructed by the Forest Department quite near the roads on which tourist vehicles ply. Animals have got so used to prying human eyes that they sometimes completely ignore human presence (not that their attention is desired!). Sometimes tigers can be sighted even lounging around the roads.

¤ Other Wildlife Attractions

The other cats living in Sariska Tiger Reserve are panthers, jungle cat, caracals (a reddish-brown wildcat with black tipped ears) and the rusty spotted cat. Nilgai (large Indian antelope; blue bull), cheetal (spotted deer), sambar (large Asiatic deer), wild boars, chinkara (Indian gazelle), jackal, chowsingha (four-horned antelopes), ratel (honey badgers) and porcupine are easily spotted. Hundreds of peafowl congregate everyday by the waterhole called the Kalighati. The other one is the Salupka waterhole, which is the clubhouse of nilgai. Chowsinghas gather around the Pandu Pol Nallah. But, of course, patience is the keyword.

¤ Reptiles

Another attraction within Sariska Tiger Reserve is the crocodile inhabited Siliserh Lake on the edge of this tiger reserve (see Siliserh for more). Sariska is also famous for its population of langur (any of the genus Presbytis) and rhesus monkeys. Talvriksh, a grove of Arjun trees, is the hub of these monkeys and you can see hundreds of them at a time. But don't irritate them, for then you'll be inviting real trouble.

Sariska nationl park has a rich and colourful birdlife too. This includes the grey partridge, quail, sandgrouse (a pigeon-like bird), golden-backed woodpecker, Great Indian horned owl and white-breasted kingfisher. Come evening, and they call out in unison, making a terrible bedlam. The open dry deciduous forest of Sariska Tiger Reserve with its rich population of wildlife is a marvel of ecological adaptation and tolerance. The most favourable time to visit the park is between November and March, but if you can take the heat be here in April-May which is the best time to sight wild animals (in search of water).

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