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This IBA includes a complex consisting of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (10,307 ha), Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (8,570 ha) and Reserve Forests between them. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park is located in the Sahyadri Range in the northernmost part of the Western Ghats. The Park is unique in being partly located within the mega metropolitan, Mumbai. Part of it is the adjoining district of Thane. A small portion of the Park (about 1.5%), on the banks of the Vasai creek known as Bassein, is at sea level and has mangrove patches and other characteristics of a typical coastal estuarine zone. A large variety of fauna is known to exist near Ghodbunder, Vasai Bunder and Nagla Bunder; the mangrove patches on the northern banks of Vasai creek are still in reasonably good condition. The Park constitutes the prime catchment area of two freshwater lakes, Tulsi and Vihar, which supply water to Mumbai city. These two freshwater lakes have aquatic fauna and flora typical of man made lakes. Within the Park, there are enclosures of Lion Safari and Tiger Safari. The existence of the old Buddhist Kanheri Caves at the centre of the Park makes the area a place of great historical importance. About 104 rockcut caves, evidence of the existence of monastic settlements from the 2nd to 9th century AD, are shelters carved in rock, with some beautiful sculptures. There are Viharas (monasteries) and Chaityas (temples), with stone beds and cisterns still intact. The forest is Tropical Dry Deciduous or the Southern Dry Deciduous as classified by Champion and Seth (1968), and dominated by Teak Tectona grandis, and Bamboo Dendrocalamus strictus. Other associated species are Pterocarpus marsupium, Adina cordifolia, Boswellia serrata, Diospyrus melanoxylon, Terminalia arjuna, Syzygium cumini and Terminalia tomentosa. The area also bears patches of Evergreen Forest or Western Subtropical hill Forest. In Tungareshwar WLS the habitat is more moist deciduous. About 600 species of plants, over 250 species of birds, 150 species of butterflies, and 36 species of herpetofauna are reported from this newly declared Sanctuary (D. Apte pers. comm. 2003).
AVIFAUNA: The Park is rich in flora and fauna. Nearly 300 species of birds have been identified, including some threatened ones. The rich avifauna of the Park includes Oriental White-backed Vulture Gyps bengalensis, Long-billed Vulture Gyps indicus, Pallas’s Fish-Eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus, Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga, Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus, Nilgiri Wood-Pigeon Columba elphinstonii, Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica, Drongo-cuckoo Surniculus lugubris, Malabar Trogon Harpactes fasciatus, Oriental Dwarf or Three-toed Kingfisher Ceyx erythacus, and Crimson or Yellow-backed Sunbird Aethopyga siparaja. The site lies in the Western Ghats Endemic Bird Area (EBA 123) where Stattersfield et al. (1998) have identified 16 restricted range species. Only one has been found here till now. This IBA also falls in Biome-10 (Indian Peninsular Tropical Moist Forest) as defined by BirdLife International (undated). Fifteen species are considered representative of this biome, out of which four have been found here. As the Park is surrounded by Mumbai and Thane on southern side and very disturbed forests all around it, many species of Biome-11 (Indo-Malayan Tropical Dry Zone) are found here. BirdLife International (undated) has listed 59 species in this biome that are found in India. This IBA and its surrounding areas have 26 species. Most of these species are common and widespread. A variety of aquatic birds, both residents and winter visitors, frequent the mangroves along the Bassein Creek and the marshy margins of Vihar Lake (Monga 2000).
OTHER KEY FAUNA: The faunal diversity of the Park includes 59 species of mammals, 155 species of butterflies, 24 species of ants, 52 species of reptiles, 13 species of amphibians and 30 species of fishes. Marsh Crocodile Crocodylus palustris has been reintroduced into Tulsi and Vihar Lakes. Leopard Panthera pardus is the largest carnivore, with a healthy population of about 40 individuals – perhaps the highest natural leopard density in the world, within a metropolis. These leopards mainly subsist on stray dogs, Common Langur Semnopithecus entellus, Rhesus Macaque Macaca mulatta, Wild Boar Sus scrofa, Chital Axis axis, Sambar Cervus unicolor, Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak and Four-horned Antelope Tetracerus quadricornis. Indian Chevrotain or Mouse Deer Moschiola meminna is not uncommon, but rarely seen due to its secretive nature. In May-June 2003, a Tiger was seen in Tungareshwar WLS.
Some of the important species of reptiles reported from this IBA are the introduced Crocodile, Pond Terrapin Melanochelys trijuga, Deccan Banded Gecko Geckoella dekkanensis, and the Spotted Forest Gecko G. collegalensis.
Key contributors: Rushikesh Chavan, Deepak Apte, Debi Goenka, Sunjoy Monga and Vijay A. Paranjpye.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 20/01/2022.