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Extremely rich wildlife characterizes Bandipur, one of the most famous national parks not only in Karnataka but also in the country. Contiguous to Mudumalai WLS (IBA) in Tamil Nadu in the south, to Wynaad WLS (IBA) in Kerala in the southwest, and to Nagarhole NP (IBA site) in the northwest, it holds most of the representative species of South India biodiversity. This Park is a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Details about the habitats and fauna are given by Sharatchandra and Gadgil (1975), and Johnsingh (1983, 1984). Much work on the wildlife of the Park has been done by Gadgil (1974) of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. Johnsingh (1983) completed a long-term study of wild dog Cuon alpinus at the Park. An ecological reconnaissance by Nair et al. (1977) referred to the formation of the Jawahar National Park, especially in the context of elephant habitat, and under Project Tiger scheme. The terrain of Bandipur is undulating and broken by chains of hills, flat-topped hillocks and watercourses. The Park is drained by the perennial Kabini, Nugu and Moyar rivers, and by the Bavali, Moolehole, Kekkanalla, and Marandi streams. The River Moyar has cut a picturesque, 260 m deep gorge, prosaically known as the Mysore Ditch (Neginhal 1974). The soil is usually a mixture of red laterite and black cotton soil. In some places, sandstone, semiquartzite and shales are present (Jain and Sastry 1983). Cultivated land borders the north side of the National Park. The Kabini river, across which a major irrigation dam has come up at Beechanahalli, forms the boundary between this Park and the Nagarhole NP. Three main types of vegetation are observed in the Park, namely Scrub in the easternmost portion, Tropical Dry Deciduous Forest in the central portion, and Tropical Moist Mixed Deciduous Forest in the western part. The Tropical Dry Deciduous Forest has a top canopy of Anogeissus latifolia, Tectona grandis, Terminalia tomentosa, and others (Neginhal 1974). The undergrowth comprises mainly grasses and Lantana. The Tropical Moist Mixed Deciduous Forest in the National Park used to feature extensive stands of Bamboo (Bambusa arundinacea and Dendrocalamus strictus). Top canopy species include: Tectona grandis, Lagerstroemia lanceolata, Terminalia tomentosa, Dalbergia latifolia, Pterocarpus marsupium, Salmalia malabarica, Kydia calycina, Adina cordifolia, Stereospermum zylocarpum, Schleichera oleosa and Ficus infectoria. Details of vegetation are given in Naginhal (1974) and Jain and Sastry (1983).
AVIFAUNA: Some studies on large mammals have been conducted in Bandipur, but not much work has been done on its bird life, except for checklists based on short visits. Even so, more than 180 bird species have been reported, including many threatened ones. This IBA also has eight restricted range species of the Western Ghats. As Bandipur is at the edge of Biomes-11 (Indo-Malayan Tropical Dry Zone) and Biome-10 (Indian Peninsula Tropical Moist Forest), it harbours elements from both biomes. From the available literature, we could identify seven species from Biome-10 out of the 15 listed by BirdLife Internationl (undated) and 27 from Biome-11 out of the 59 listed. Most of them are common species. More are likely to be listed once detailed research is done. Many migratory species occurring in other biomes also winter here. Although, Bandipur has four Vulnerable and one Critically Endangered species, based on the classification of BirdLife International (2001), most of these species are found in other places also and none of them have highly significant populations in Bandipur. For instance, the Oriental White-backed Vulture Gyps bengalensis and Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus are widely distributed. Similarly, the Nilgiri Wood-Pigeon Columba elphinstonii, although confined to the Western Ghats (Ali and Ripley 1987, Grimmett et al. 1998), is widespread and found in many IBAs.
OTHER KEY FAUNA: Bandipur NP is extremely rich in wildlife, due to effective protection by the Karnataka Forest Department. Despite selective poaching of tuskers, we still find some fine old male Asian Elephants Elephas maximus sporting large tusks.
It has a huge population of ungulates such as Chital Axis axis, Sambar Cervus unicolor, Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak, Four-horned antelope Tetracerus quadricornis, Gaur Bos frontalis, and Wild Boar Sus scrofa. This community supports a healthy population of Tiger Panthera tigris, Leopard Panthera pardus, Wild dog Cuon alpinus and Hyena Hyaena hyaena. Sloth bear Melursus ursinus is regularly seen. Among the smaller predators, there are the Jungle Cat Felis chaus and the Golden Jackal Canis aureus. Mouse Deer Moschiola meminna may not be uncommon, but is rarely seen due to its secretive nature. Reptiles include the Mugger Crocodylus palustris in the Nugu river, Indian Rock Python Python molurus and numerous species of snakes, lizards and turtles.
Key contributor: Thejaswi Shivanand.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bandipur National Park. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/06/2022.