Chitwan National Park is situated in south-central Nepal in the subtropical lowlands of the inner terai of Chitwan, Makawanpur, Parsa and Nawalparasi districts. It lies between 27°16.56’- 27°42.14’ Latitudes and 83°50.23’-84°46.25’ Longitudes. The altitude ranges from 110m to 850m above sea level. 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 physiography of the park consists of the Terai and Siwaliks. Three major rivers 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. The area comprising the Tikauli forest from Rapti River to the foothills of the Mahabharat extending over an area of 175 km2 was declared as Mahendra Deer Park in 1959. The area south of the Rapti River was demarcated as a Rhino Sanctuary in 1963. It was proclaimed as Royal Chitwan National Park with an area of 932 km2 in 1973. After the peoples’ revolution in 2006, the park’s name was changed to Chitwan National Park.
In recognition of its unique biological resources of outstanding universal value, UNESCO designated CNP as a World Heritage Site in 1984. 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 buffer zone contains a Ramsar Site – Beeshazari Lakes.
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.
The park has a range of climatic seasons each offering unique experience. October through February with the average temperature of 25C offers an enjoyable climate. From March to June temperatures can reach as high as 43*C. The hot humid days give way to the monsoon season that typically lasts from late June until September when rivers become flooded and most of the roads are virtually impassable. Mean annual rainfall of the park has been recorded 2150mm.
In late January, local villagers are allowed to cut thatch grasses to meet their needs, which offer a better viewing of wildlife to visitors. Also, between September and November, and February and April, migratory birds join the residential birds and create spectacular bird watching opportunities. While the monsoon rains bring lush vegetation, most trees flower in late winter. The Palash tree, known as the "flame of the forest", and silk cotton tree have spectacular crimson flowers that can be seen from a distance.
The Chitwan valley is characterized by tropical and subtropical forests. Roughly 70 percent of park vegetative cover is Sal (Shorea robusta) forest, a moist deciduous vegetation type of the Terai region. The remaining vegetation types include grassland, riverine forest and Sal with Chir pine Pinus roxburghii. The later occurs at the top of the Churia range. The riverine forests consist of Khair (Acacia catechu), Sissoo (Dalbergia sisoo) and Simal (Bombax ceiba). The grasslands are mainly located in the floodplains of the rivers and form a diverse and complex community with over 50 different types of grasses including the elephant grass (Saccharum spp.), renowned for its immense height. It can grow up to 8 meters in height.
A total of 68 species of mammals, 56 species of herpetofauna 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. The park harbors not only the world’s largest terrestrial mammal (wild elephant) but also the world’s smallest terrestrial mammal (pygmy shrew). A total of 544 species of birds has been recorded so far including 22 globally threatened species including critically endangered Bengal Florican, Slender-billed Vulture, White-rumped Vulture and Red-headed Vulture.
The park offers interesting sites and activities. The display at the Visitor Center at Sauraha provides fascinating information on wildlife and conservation programs. The Women's User Group souvenir shop offers a variety of handicrafts and other local products for gifts and souvenirs.
Elephant safari provides an opportunity to get a closer view of the endangered One-horned Rhinoceros. One may also get a glimpse of the elusive Bengal tiger. The Elephant Breeding Center at Khorsor, Sauraha gives you information on domesticated elephant and the baby elephants born there.
The museum at Kasara, the park headquarters, has informative displays. Near the HQ, visitors can see Bikram Baba, a Hindu religious site of archival value. A short walk (1 km.) from the park HQ will take you to the Gharial Breeding Center, which is also home to the Marsh mugger and a number of turtles.
Inside the park, there are 7 resorts run by park concessionaires that can provide lodging and access to wildlife activities. Various resorts and lodges situated outside the park also offer a variety of services.
There are certain rules and regulations of the Chitwan National Park that the visitors of the park are supposed to follow in order to visit the park. The regulations of the park are outlined here below:
- An entry fee of NRs. 1500/- (Foreigners), NRs. 750/- (SAARC), and NRs. 100/- (Nepalese) per person has to be paid at the Park's Entrance Gate.
- Flora and Fauna of the park are fully protected and must not be disturbed at any cost.
- Do not purchase the illegal animal or plant products. The purchase of illegal animal or plant product may bring you to the legal prosecution.
- The visitors of the park must respect the religious and cultural sites all around the park.
- The visitors are required to place the trash in the rubbish bins and should care about the cleanliness.
- The visitors are strictly prohibited to walk within the park between sunset and sunrise.
The park headquarter is in Kasara. HQ holds the main administrative activities. Other administrative activities are done in its eastern sector Sauraha and in its western sector Amaltari. The park protection works have been doing by Nepal Army. There are altogether 47 security posts, among which 16 are park staff only and 13 are Nepal Army only.
Habitat Conservation and Improvement
Grasslands: Grasslands and waterholes play a key role in the management of precious wildlife of CNP. Grasslands are being converted into shrublands and forests resulting in the decrease of grassland area from 20% in the 1970s to about 5% in recent years. However, the invasion of Mikania micrantha (Banmasa i.e. forest killer or mile a minute) is becoming more and more aggressive to grasslands and other ecosystems.
Grassland ecosystem is very dynamic. It is readily affected by floods, fires, grazing and manual cutting. The increase in the Saccharum spontaneum (kans) type of grassland is considered to be the highest quality habitat for wild herbivores especially the rhinoceros and the deers. It is also a major source of elephant fodder on one hand and a preferred raw material for paper pulp.
Break-up tall grass stands into patches work of tall grassland and short grassland is crucial for wildlife conservation but the work is challenging.
Khagendramalli, Chappachuli, Amrita, Padampur, Dumaria, Jarneli, Sukebhar, Bhimle, Budhirapti, Buddha Nagar, Kachuwani, Ghatgain/ Lamictal, Devital and Khoria Mohan are the major grasslands of Chitwan National Park. Lack of record of grasslands and their characteristics and invasion of grasslands by unwanted species are the major issues in the grassland management.
The park has been adopting following practices to manage and restore these grasslands:
- Cutting and uprooting of unwanted species and removing of invading trees from the grasslands.
- Practice grass cutting and burning in February March every year
- Grass cutting in a massive way and removing of unwanted species from newly created Padampur grassland. This area was a human settlement since 2000.
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