Rajasthan is a heaven for a wide spectrum of wildlife. The topography of Rajasthan ranges from the barren desert, scrub-thorn arid forests, rocks and ravines to wetlands and lush, green forests. Rajasthan is the home of the tigers, black bucks, chin Kara, the rare desert fox, the endangered caracal, the great Indian bustard, gavial, monitor lizard, wild boars, and porcupine.
Migratory birds like the common crane, ducks, coots, pelicans and the rare Siberian cranes, imperial sand grouse, falcons, buzzards flocks to this state during the winter months. Typical areas representing each of the ecosystems have been earmarked as special areas of wildlife. Rajasthan boasts of two National Parks, over a dozen Sanctuaries and two Closed Areas. Most of these areas are open to visitors round the year but are closed briefly during the monsoon.
Around 550 species of birds can be traced in the lakes, ponds, marshlands and grasslands of Rajasthan. They are an absolute paradise for bird lovers most of which are residents. The best colony of birds in the world is Kildee National Park situated in Bhagalpur. It has more than 400 species of birds and more than 130 of them breed inside the park. Being a unique bird place, the UNSECO has recognized it as a world heritage site.
The best season for bird watching begins with the onset of winter when marshlands and lakes are inhabited by migratory birds as well as resident birds. Flamingos too can be seen in salt-water lakes like Pilchard near Barmera and Sāmbhar near Raipur. The major wetlands other than Bhagalpur in Rajasthan are : Raipur — Kakas, Kalakh, Bund, Bukhara Candy, Chhaparwara and Ramah Altar — Sinister Jazzman and Mansarover Udaipur — Ana Sagar and Faterhsagar in Ajmer, Jaisamand,Pichhola and Badi ka Talab Jodhpur — Balsamand and Sardar Samand Chittaurgarh — Bassi Dam Bhilwara — Meja Dam
Bhensrod Garh Sanctuary
Established in 1983 it covers a total area of 229 sq km of scrub and dry deciduous forest and is a home to leopards, chinkara, sloth bear can be spotted here if one is lucky. The best time to visit is between October and May.
Previously the hunting ground of the maharajas of Kota, this sanctuary was established in 1955 and covers an area of 266 sq km. This hilly sanctuary with its thick forests is worth a visit. The animals here include wolf, sloth bear, chinkara and leopard. The best time to visit is between February and May.
Desert National Sanctuary
Established in 1980, the park covers on 3162 sq km. and has shrubs and trees in not to miss out rolling sand dunes. The wildlife wealth here comprises fox, desert cat, hare, spiney tail uromastix and sand fish. Sparrows, imperial sand grouse, bustards, falcons and eagles migrate here during the winter in large numbers. Best time to visit is September to March.
Located beside the man-made Jaisamand lake is this sanctuary established in 1957, this sanctuary is covers a total area of 160 sq km. and harbours sloth bear, leopard, chital, chinkara, wild boar and a number of birds. Some crocodiles and fish can also be spotted here. Best time to visit is between November and January.
Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Bharatpur
Declared a National Park in 1983, this 29 sq. km. park is one of the world’s greatest heronries. Its shallow, fresh water marsh attracts thousands of migratory birds. Over 10,000 nests of egrets, darters, cormorants, grey herons and storks hatch nearly 20,000 to 30,000 chicks every year. There is an infinite variety of migratory birds. Mammals like the sambhar, blackbuck, chital, nilgai, fishing cat and mongoose also roam freely here. Best time to visit is August to February.
The majestic fort of Kumbhalgarh overlooks the 578 sq km sanctuary. The Aravallis hills, which remain barren for most of the year, turn green in the rains and provide shelter to sloth bear, leopard, flying squirrel. It is also the only sanctuary where the Indian wolf is breeding successfully. Best time to visit is March to May and September to November.
Mount Abu Sacntuary
The highest point of Aravallis, the Guru Shikhar, lies in this 289 sq.km. sanctuary. Established in 1960, this provides shelter to the common langaur, wild boar, sambhar and leopard.. The grey jungle fowl can also be spotted here. Besides, a number of flowering trees enhance the beauty of this place.
Ranthambhor National Park
This is the state’s most well-known tiger reserve under Project Tiger. Home of an expansive variety of other animals in is 392 sq km area, one can spot sambhar, cheetal, wild boar, leopard, sloth bear, jackal, hyena among others. Artificial lakes, dense forests and the shield of the Aravallis have helped to make this park very impressive and interesting. Best time to visit is Ocotber to April.
Mornings and evenings are the best time to observe animals and birds – which is why we planned out an overnight trip both here and to Bharatpur. The Ranthambhor National Park certainly is one of the most picturesque game reserves in the world – the entire forest being dominated by the silent, ruined battlements of the Ranthambhor Fort, which is inside the sanctuary. Another interesting feature of the park is a huge banyan tree – supposedly one of the world’s largest – near the graceful Jogi Mahal water palace. Incidentally, Jogi Mahal still does not have electricity. Covered under Project Tiger (one of Asia’s most important conservation efforts), Ranthambhor is the favourite haunt of wildlife buffs and professional wildlife photographers from around the world. Apart from tigers, other animals include panthers, caracal, hyena, jackal, jungle cat, marsh crocodiles, wild boar, bears and various species of deer. The Park has a rich birdlife as well including The Great Indian horned owl, which has an uncanny resemblance to my boss back home. Ah yes, a very interesting thing about the Ranthambhor Fort. Atop the rocky cliff, there is a post office and a temple of the Hindu god, Ganesha. Big Deal, you would say! But hear this… the invitation card of every Hindu wedding is first sent to this temple and the post office is there because of the overload. I pity the poor postal department chappie who has to climb the fort’s steep serpentine ramp with overflowing mailbags.
Sariska Tiger Reserve
The other Tiger land in Rajasthan which was brought under Project Tiger in 1979. Other than leopard, sambhar, nilgai, wild dog, and chinkara, the ruins of 9th and 10th century temples exist here. Best time to visit is November to June. Other sanctuaries include Sitamata, Darrah, Chambal, Tal Chapper, Jamwa Ramgarh, Kaila Devi, Van Vihar, Ramgarh, Shergarh, Todgarh-Rad and Jawahar Sagar.