Bhitarkanika National Park
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|Bhitarkanika National Park|
Sunrise at Bhitarkanika National Park
|Nearest city||Kendrapara, Rajkanika Chandbali|
|Area||145 km2 (56 sq mi)|
|Established||16 September 1998|
|Governing body||Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India|
Bhitarkanika National Park is a 145 km2 (56 sq mi) large national park in northeast Kendrapara district in Odisha in eastern India. It was designated on 16 September 1998 and obtained the status of a Ramsar site on 19 August 2002. The area is also been designated as second Ramsar site of the State after the Chilika Lake. It is surrounded by Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, which spread over 672 km2 (259 sq mi). Gahirmatha Beach and Marine Sanctuary are to the east, separating swamp region and mangroves from the Bay of Bengal. The national park and wildlife sanctuary is inundated by the rivers Brahmani, Baitarani, Dhamra, Pathsala. It hosts many mangrove species, and is the second largest mangrove ecosystem in India.
Mangroves are salt tolerant, complex and dynamic eco-systems that occur in tropical and subtropical inter-tidal regions. Bhitarkanika is one such location of rich, lush green vibrant eco-system lying in the estuarine region of Brahmani- Baitarani in the North-Eastern corner of Kendrapara district of Odisha. The area is intersected by a network of creeks with Bay of Bengal on the East. The alley between the meandering creeks and rivers, houses the second largest viable mangrove eco-system of India. Its 672 km² of mangrove forest and wetland provides home to well over 215 species of birds including winter migrants from central-Asia and Europe. Giant salt water crocodiles and a variety of other wildlife inhabit this eco-system which is one of Asia's most spectacular wildlife sanctuaries. An area of 145 km² has been notified as Bhitarkanika National Park vide Notification No.19686/F in September 1998 by the government of Odisha. It has much significance with regard to ecological, geomorphological and biological background which includes mangrove forests, rivers, creeks, estuaries, back water, accreted land and mud flats. Bhitarkanika National Park is the core area of Bhitarkanika Sanctuary.
Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary was declared vide notification No.6958/FF AH on 22 April 1975 over an area of 672 km². The Sanctuary comprising mangrove forests meandering rivers, innumerable criss-crossed tidal inundated creeks provide last refuge to the already endangered salt water crocodile (Crocodilus porosus). The sanctuary is rich in avifauna, mammalian and reptilians and provide habitat for king cobra, Indian python and Asian water monitor. Many water birds visit Bagagahan heronry, which is an area of approximately 4 ha within the Bhitarkanika Forest Block near Suajore creek from the month of June to October. Most of the birds are Asian open bill, egrets, black ibis, cormorants, and darters.
The park is home to the saltwater crocodile, Indian python, black ibis, wild boar, rhesus monkey, chital, darter, cobra, monitor lizard. Olive ridley turtles nest on Gahirmatha and other nearby beaches. Bhitarkanika has one of the largest populations of endangered saltwater crocodile in India and is globally unique in that, 10% of the adults exceed 6 m length. Nearly 1671 saltwater crocodiles inhabit the rivers and creeks. Around 3,000 saltwater crocodiles were born during 2014 annual breeding and nesting season.
In 2006, Guinness World Records accepted claims of a 7.1 m (23 ft 4 in), 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) male saltwater crocodile living within Bhitarkanika National Park. Due to the difficulty of trapping and measuring a large living crocodile, the accuracy of these dimensions is yet to be verified. These observations and estimations have been made by park officials over the course of ten years, from 2006 to 2016, however, regardless of the skill of the observers it cannot be compared to a verified tape measurement, especially considering the uncertainty inherent in visual size estimation in the wild. According to the park report in 2006, there were 203 adults, of which 16 measured over 4.9 m (16 ft 1 in); 5 of these 5.5 to 6.1 m (18 ft 1 in to 20 ft 0 in), and 3 over 6.1 m (20 ft 0 in), as well as the preserved skeleton of a 6.0 m (19 ft 8 in) specimen which died one year earlier. A significant figure, since individuals over 5 m (16 ft 5 in) are considered rare, making the Bhitarkanika Park a suitable habitat for large individuals. The most recently published official park report shows an increase of adult crocodiles to 308 individuals, as well as a steady increase over the years. In future, if conservation efforts pay off, these large individuals could be more common.
As per the 2014 survey of mammals, first of its kind to be undertaken in the forest and wetland sites of the park; 1,872 spotted deers, 1,213 numbers of wild boars have made the forest areas their home. The census breakup of other mammals is monkeys - 1,522, jackals - 305, common langur - 39, otter - 38, sambar deer - 17, jungle cat - 11, fox - 10, Mongoose - 7, wolf- 7, fishing cats - 3, hyena - 12, according to the survey data.
Avifauna includes 320 species including eight kingfisher species. Birds such as Asian open bill, cormorants, darters, black ibis, egrets, are frequently seen in the park. Every year close to 120,000 winter visitors from abroad for wintering and 80,000 resident birds from different parts of India arrive for nesting during the monsoon season.
It is a very good place to sight the giant Salt Water Crocodile, some growing to 23 feet in length, along with other reptiles like the Water Monitor Lizard and the King Cobra. Spotted deers and wild boars are abundant in the park and can be spotted at all the major locations. Eight varieties of Kingfishers are found here and can be spotted along the many creeks and riverines within the park.
The boat ride from Khola to Dangmal or vice versa is highly recommended. Khola is one of the gateways into the park. This is along an artificial creek and it passes through dense mangrove forest providing a glimpse into the estuarine ecosystem and its wealth of fauna. The best time to travel through this creek is early morning or before sunset.
Bhitarkanika has a very rich historical and cultural past. It used to be the hunting grounds of the erstwhile King of Kanika . The hunting towers and artificial watering holes can be seen at many places including Bhitarkanika trail and at Dangmal. It is also the home of medieval Hindu temples which can be found dotted throughout the sanctuary. But the major attraction remains the wildlife wealth.
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- "Bhitarkanika is home to the largest Crocodiles in the world". oneindia.com. Retrieved 2015-06-03.
- Britton, Adam. "Crocodylus porosus (Schneider, 1801)". The Crocodilian Species List. Archived from the original on 8 January 2006.
- "Rise in estuarine crocodile populations in Bhitarkanika, Odisha". Zee News. Retrieved 2015-06-03.
- "Crocodile". Bhitarkanika.org.
- Grigg, G., & Kirshner, D. (2015). Biology and Evolution of Crocodylians. CSIRO PUBLISHING.
- "3000 spotted deer and wild boars in Bhitarkanika". Zee News. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
- "Migratory Birds arrive at Bhitarkanika National Park in Odisha". IANS. news.biharprabha.com. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Bhitarkanika National Park.|
Media related to Bhitarkanika National Park at Wikimedia Commons