IN102
Corbett Tiger Reserve


Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
The Corbett Tiger Reserve is situated in the hilly districts of Pauri Garhwal and Nainital in the northern state of Uttaranchal. It is one of the nine Tiger Reserves created at the launch of Project Tiger in 1973. This Reserve includes Corbett National Park (NP), which was the first Park to be established in India. It was declared in 1936 as Hailey NP with an area of 32,375 ha to which 19,707 ha were added later as Ramganga NP, and finally named as Corbett NP in 1957, in the memory of the legendary hunter turned conservationist Jim Corbett. In 1991, 79,772 ha was added as a buffer area to the Tiger Reserve (Jain 2001). Now the total area of Corbett Tiger Reserve is 1,31,854 ha (Jain 2001). This is one of the most famous Tiger Reserves in India and is extremely popular with tourists for its history, scenery and the wildlife. Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary, a part of Corbett Tiger Reserve, is considered as a separate IBA for administrative reasons. The area in the Himalayan foothills wherein the Reserve is situated is known as the South Patlidun, and ranges from 400 m to 1210 m. Corbett includes the foothills of Outer Himalayas in the north and the Shivaliks in the south. The Outer Himalayas form the northern boundary of the Reserve and Kanda, the highest point, with its magnificent panoramic view of the Reserve, is located here. The Ramganga valley, the largest in the Reserve, with its long axis from east to west, lies between the Outer Himalayas and the Shivaliks. Through Ramganga valley, three thickly forested ridge systems run roughly parallel to one another. Small offshoots of these ridges run north to south and the small valleys formed in between are known as sots. Many smaller valleys run from the Shivaliks towards the south and the prominent one is Paterpani sot. Different types of vegetation are found all along the varied topography, which comprises hilly and riverine areas, temporary marshy depressions, plateaux and ravines. Up to 110 species of trees, 51 species of shrubs and over 33 species of bamboo and grass are found here. The Reserve is known for its almost pure stands of Sal Shorea robusta in the lower hilly ridges and flat valleys. The chaurs, or savanna grasslands, are covered with a variety of tall grasses such as Themeda arundinacea, Vetiveria zizanioides, Cymbopogon jwarancusa and Desmostachya bipinnata. Encroachment on these grasslands, which are vital for species such as Hog deer Axis porcinus, by Cannabis sativa is a cause for concern. Controlled burning is carried out during winter to prevent woodland encroachment and promote growth of fresh grass.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Corbett has many attractions for bird watchers. Over 580 species of birds are reported (Grewal and Sahgal, 1995; other communications). Of the total 69 species of diurnal raptors reported from the Indian subcontinent, 51 are found in Corbett (Naoroji 1999) and of the 26 species of woodpeckers 15 are reported from Corbett (Grewal and Sahgal, undated). Although Corbett does not have many restricted range species, it has 15 species of Biome-8 (Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forest). Species from Biome-5 (Eurasian High Montane - Alpine and Tibetan) and Biome-7 (Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forest) are also found here. Among the interesting species is Ibisbill Ibidorhyncha struthersii, a bird of cold streams and shingle beds of the Himalayas. Brown dippers Cinclus pallasii is also frequent seen in winter. Thirteen Near Threatened species are also found in this IBA.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Approximately fifty species of mammals are found in the area.

Among the larger mammals, Tiger Panthera tigris, Leopard P. pardus, Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, Sambar Cervus unicolor, Cheetal Axis axis, Hog Deer Axis porcinus, Barking Deer or Indian Muntjak Muntiacus muntjak, Wild Boar Sus scrofa, Goral Nemorhaedus goral, and Golden Jackal Canis aureus are noteworthy. Serow Nemorhaedus sumatraensis are occasionally seen in Kanda ridge. Interestingly, in winter the Asiatic Black Bear Ursus thibetanus visits the northern part of the Reserve and Sloth Bears Melursus ursinus are resident in the southern portion of the Reserve. Among the reptiles, the two largest Indian species, namely Gharial Gavialis gangeticus and Marsh Crocodile Crocodylus palustris are found in the Reserve.

In addition to numerous amphibians and lizards, the largest of the poisonous snakes, the King Cobra Ophiophagus hannah and Python Python molurus are frequently seen. Some of the best game fish of India, such as Golden Mahseer Tor putitora and Indian Trout Barilius bola abound in the waters of Ram Ganga streams which flow through the Reserve.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Livestock grazing on fringes; Poaching and wildlife trade; Invasive species; Forest fires; Man-animal conflict; Tourism; Disturbance from Kalagarh township.

Recurrent forest fires are a common feature of the Corbett Tiger Reserve. During summer, the forest floor is covered with highly combustible, dry leaf litter largely contributed by sal leaves. The slightest ignition initiates widespread forest fires which are difficult to control. Fire lines are kept clear of debris to serve as fire breaks. Fire ecology studies to assess the impact of fire on wildlife populations are required to be done in this IBA. On an experimental basis, Lantana camara has been successfully eradicated in Sarpduli Range by uprooting Lantana and planting of Arundo donax, a tall grass species. This management should be extended to many other sites in the National Park. An eco-development programme has been initiated along the forest boundary to involve local villagers in biodiversity conservation and to reduce man-animal conflicts. The Hindi edition of Corbett Newsletter is distributed to keep the villagers informed of policy decisions and the management programme. Ex gratia relief is offered to villagers for accidental human deaths by wild animals, livestock kills and damage to crops by wild elephants. Ecodevelopment committees are being formed in villages to enable communities to plan and implement programmes for conservation of resources and alternative forms of livelihood. It is desirable that the wildlife resorts along the Kosi river, which prosper because they are close to Corbett Tiger Reserve, should significantly contribute to the Reserve by supporting programmes such as control of poaching and weed eradication. The construction of a reservoir on the Ramganga river, and the building of the Kalagarh township on the southwestern boundary of Corbett Tiger Reserve in the early 1970s, have curtailed the movement of elephants and tigers across the Ramganga river, south of the reservoir, from Corbett NP to Kalagarh FD (Sona Nadi WLS). Occasionally, tigers and bull elephants come down from the Reserve along the Sukha sot, which is to the east of Kalagarh– Saddle Dam road, to the Ramganga river and cross over to Kalagarh FD. The Kalagarh project and township was built on 9,000 ha of forest land, and according to an agreement between the Irrigation and Forest Departments, 350 ha of this area should have been vacated and returned to the Forest Department soon after the completion of the reservoir. After much persuasion, 310 ha were returned by the Irrigation Department. The remaining area (40 ha) has colonies of about 4000-5000 people. The Forest Department, supported by NGOs, has now filed cases against 724 individuals, to evict them and their families, and the case is in the court of Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Kotdwar. The encroachers in the Kalagarh colony should be evicted, which will be possible only when the Government of India, the Government of Uttaranchal and NGOs interested in the conservation of Corbett Tiger Reserve, work together. The Sukha sot area also needs total protection from disturbances such as wood cutting by the inhabitants of Bikkhawala village (population about 1200). The National Park forms the core area of the Corbett Tiger Reserve (1,28,600 ha) which also includes the Sona Nadi Wildlife Sanctuary (30,200 ha) to the west of the Reserve. There are recommendations from conservationists to enlarge the Reserve to about 2,00,000 ha which could be called Greater Corbett Tiger Reserve and which will encompass the areas between Khoh river (near Kotdwar) and Boar river (near Kaladhungi). If this expansion is undertaken, this protected area will become the most compact and vital area in the foothills of Himalayas for the conservation of several endangered species of birds and mammals.

Acknowledgements
Key contributors: A. J. T. Johnsingh and Rishad Naoroji.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Corbett Tiger Reserve. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 03/12/2022.