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The Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary lies in the northern part of the Western Ghats in Maharashtra. It is situated at the crest of the main Sahyadri range and includes spurs running gradually into the eastern plains, as well as steep terraced western slopes leading to the Konkan. Three rivers, Bhima, Ghod and Arala, originate from the western part of the Sanctuary. The crest of the Sanctuary experiences high velocity winds from December to March and is completely fog-bound during the monsoon. The main physical features of the Sanctuary are ridges, hill slopes, plateau, uplands, gorges, ravines, cliffs, valleys, rocky stream basins, spurs with flat tops, and valleys. Bhimashankar Sanctuary is famous for the highly endangered subspecies of the Indian Giant Squirrel Ratufa indica elphinstoni, locally known as Shekru. This is the state animal of Maharashtra. At the heart of the Sanctuary there is an old shrine of Bheema Shankar at the origin of the River Bhima. The Sanctuary includes Semi-evergreen, Moist Deciduous and scrub forest. It contains several evergreen species that are locally abundant only in restricted localities in the Western Ghats. Some plant species are Memecylon umbellatum, Atlantia racemosa and Xantolis tomentosa. Carvia callosa is another interesting species. During monsoon, various species of mosses and epiphytes including bioluminescent fungi can be seen on the trees.
AVIFAUNA: Gole (2000) listed over 172 bird species in the Sanctuary, including several globally threatened and restricted range species. The Sanctuary is at the crest of the Western Ghats and the northernmost distribution of some of the restricted range avian species of the Western Ghats. The site falls in the Western Ghats Endemic Bird Area (Stattersfield et al. 1998). Of the 15 Biome-10 species (BirdLife International, undated), five have been identified from Bhimashankar. The site also has 15 Biome-11 species. The Nilgiri Wood-Pigeon Columba elphinstonii, a globally threatened and restricted range species of the Western Ghats (BirdLife International 2001), generally arrives in February and can be seen/heard till the break up of the monsoon in end June (Gole 2000). It leaves the high rainfall plateau during the monsoon to reappear in winter. Its arrival is also dependent on the fruiting season. Several other pigeons species and parakeets such as the Blue-winged or Malabar Parakeet Psittacula columboides and Plum-headed Parakeet Psittacula cyanocephala also visit the Sanctuary from late winter onwards. Malabar Grey Hornbill Ocyceros griseus, an endemic species, is generally found below the plateau on the Konkan side and not observed in the plateau. While the Yellow-browed Bulbul Iole virescens, a biome species, and White-bellied Blue-flycatcher Cyornis pallipes, an endemic species, are hill species and seldom seen below 620 m (Gole 2000). Small Sunbird Nectarinia minima, another endemic of the Western Ghats has good resident population in this IBA. One of the most interesting winter visitors to this site is the Tytler’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus tytleri, a bird of the Western Himalaya (Ali and Ripley 1987, Grimmett et al. 1998). It winters in the Western Ghats, and perhaps a significant population winters in this IBA. Trevor Price (pers. comm. 2001) has seen a high density wintering in the neighbouring Mahabaleswar forests. This site also has good population of the Grey-fronted or Pampadour Green Pigeon Treron pompadora affinis. Recently, this subspecies has been upgraded to a full-fledged species called Treron affinis (Rassmusen and Anderton, in press). This means that one more species is added in the list of endemic species of the Western Ghats.
OTHER KEY FAUNA: Leopard Panthera pardus is the largest carnivore of this Sanctuary.
Its main prey species are the Sambar Cervus unicolor, Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak, Wild Boar Sus scrofa, Common Langur Semnopithecus entellus, Rhesus Macaque Macaca mulatta and Mouse Deer Moschiola meminna. Other carnivores include the Striped Hyena Hyaena hyaena and Golden Jackal Canis aureus.
Indian Pangolin Manis crassicaudata is also reported, but being nocturnal, is not easily seen.
Key contributors: Prakash Gole and Renee Borges.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 20/01/2022.