Valmiki Wildlife Sanctuary, National Park & Tiger Reserve
The Valmiki Tiger Reserve forms the eastern most limit of the Himalayan Terai forest in India. Situated in the Gangetic Plains bio-geographic zone of the country, the forest has combination of bhabar and terai tracts. Boulder and pebble deposits by the Himalayan Rivers in the foothills characterize the Bhabar tract, while the finer sediment deposits feature terai lands.
The Valmiki National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary lie in the north-western most West Champaran district of Bihar. Name of the district has been derived from two words Champa and Aranya – meaning Forest of Champa trees. Geographically, it is situated between 83˚-50’ and 84˚-10’ E longitude and between 27˚-10’ and 27˚-03’ N latitude. Total forest area comprises of about 900 sq. kms out of which expense of Valmiki Wildlife Sanctuary is 880 sq. km. and spread of the National Park is about 335 sq. km. area. In north, the protected areas are bordered by Nepal while the Indian state Uttar Pradesh bounds the Wildlife Sanctuary from western side.
The Valmiki tract merges with the Chitwan National Park and Parsa Wildlife Reserve, also in the Himalayan terai, in the neighbor country Nepal. The total geographical extent of this trans-boundary wildlife zone being around 3000 sq. km. The Valmiki National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary are parts of a large tiger conservation landscape – the Royal Chitwan Tiger Conservation landscape. The Valmiki protected areas in India and Chitwan National Park and Parsa Wildlife Reserve in Nepal has been assessed as Level–1 Tiger Conservation Unit (TCU) by US–WWF due to adequate core areas and low poaching pressure.
Valmiki-Chitwan-Parsa Tiger Conservation Unit
Prior to independence, the Valmiki forests were owned by two erstwhile Zamindari Estates - Bettiah Raj and Ramnagar Raj . The forests were managed for timber production. The state government took over the management of Ramnagar Raj forests in 1950 and the Bettiah Raj forests in 1953 and 1954 under the Bihar Private Protected Forests Act (1947). Subsequently these forests got the status of Protected Forests. From early sixties to 1994, the forests were under the management of the state Forest Department. The area was subjected to large scale afforestation with teak, semal, shisham and bamboo. Subsequently, in 1974, the entire forests were handed over to the Bihar State Forest Development Corporation on lease, which managed the forests with commercial objectives. A fraction of the forest recognized as significant wildlife habitat was notified as Valmiki Wildlife Sanctuary in 1978. The remaining areas were notified as sanctuary in 1990. In the same year, Valmiki National Park was
notified out of the sanctuary. The forests were taken back from the State Forest Development Corporation in 1994 and Valmiki Tiger Reserve was constituted as 18th reserve under Project Tiger of Government of India.
Habitat Diversity of Valmiki Tiger Reserve:
Foothills of Himalayan Terai outliers - a continuation of Shiwaliks
Someshwar Hill Range and Dun Hill system with knife - edge ridges and precipitous slopes, cliffs, spurs, gorges, narrow valleys.
Bhabar - Dun Tract
Older Alluvium with sandy soil with variegated clay and loose boulder deposits and artesian flows; Lateritic formations on higher contours and newer Alluvium on southern parts with reissuing springs akin to artesian flows.
Flood plains of Gandak and Burhi Gandak and their tributaries
Criss-crossing and meandering rivers, streams and rivulets, manmade canals; Swamps and Grasslands.
Intensive cultivation of Sugarcane, Paddy and groves of Mango.
River Gandak forms the western boundary of Valmiki wildlife sanctaury. It enters in India at Valmikinagar, where two rivulets Sonha and Pachnad joins it forming a holy confluence ‘Triveni’. The river is called ‘Narayani’ in Nepal. Harha – Masan River system originates from the Valmiki Forests and forms Burhi Gandak River down south. River Pandai flows into Bihar (India) from Nepal in the eastern end of the Sanctuary and meets Masan.
All these rivers with their precursor and tributaries namely Rohua, Kotrahia, Manor, Bhapsa, Koshil, Singha, Dhonghi, Ganguli, Dhoram are full of youth and verve. Their cascades in wanton and wayward playfulness while descending from hills ridges and gorges are enchanting. Meeting the planes they slowly mature to serene grandeur.
According to Champion and Seth classification, the Valmiki WLS and NP are comprised of seven types of forests :
- Bhabar – Dun Sal Forest
- Dry Siwalik Sal Forest
- West Gangetic Moist Mixed Deciduous Forest
- Khair – Sissoo Forest
- Cane Brakes
- Eastern Wet Alluvial Grassland
- Barringtonia Swamp Forest
Due to diverse topographical and edaphic factors the Reserve harbors varied vegetation types. The Botanical Survey of India has categorized seven vegetation types within the limits of the sanctuary and the national park:
- Moist mixed deciduous
- Open-Land Vegetation
- Sub-mountainous semi-evergreen formation
- Freshwater swamps
- Riparian fringes
- Alluvial grasslands and high hill savannah
The forests of Madanpur forest ranges lying in the floodplains of Gandak River have several freshwater swamps and wetlands. The moist parts of the forest range are full of cane brakes. Alluvial grasslands are also localized in the same range.
The mixed moist deciduous vegetation along the alluvial plains of the Gandak River is dominated by sal (Shorea robusta), rohini (Mallotus phillipensis) and sihor (Strebulus asper). Terminalia tomentosa, Terminalia belerica, Adina cordifolia, Dalbergia latifolia, Mitragyna parviflora, Ehretia laevis, Angeissus latifolia are some of the important associates of Sal forests. The natural forests are interspersed with plantations of teak (Tectona grandis), bamboo, semal (Salmalia malabarica), shisham (Dalbergia sissoo) and khair (Acacia catechu).
The sub-mountainous semi-evergreen forests are dominated by Jamun (Syzygium cumini), Ficus sp. and Agai (Dillenia pentagyna). Common tree associates of freshwater swampy areas are Jamun (Syzygium cumini), Sihor (Streblus asper) and Gular (Ficus glomerata). The unique low altitude Chir Pine trees are found in pockets of Raghia hills. Cane brakes (Calamus tenuis) are conspicuous feature of Madanpur forest range.
The shrub layer of the Valmiki forests is mainly dominated by Colebrookea oppositifolia, Murraya koenigii, Bridelia retusa, Ziziphus sp., Indigofera pulchella, Leea asiatica, and Phoenix humilis. Among grasses, Imperata cylindrica, Saccharum spontaneum, Eulaliopsis binata, Vetiveria zizanoides, Capillipedum assimile, Chrysopogon aciculatus, Phragmites karka, Themada sp., Typha angustata are commonly found species of Valmiki forests. Acacia pennata, Bauhinia vahlii, Smilax parviflora, Caesalpinia cucculata are common climbers of the sanctuary.
Diverse habitats of the Sanctuary support a variety of faunal life forms. Tigers, Leopards and Indian Wild Dogs are the large predators. Leopard cat and fishing cat are also found in patches. Deer species are represented by spotted deer, sambar, barking deer and hog deer. Indian bison (Gaur), Nilgai and wild boar are other ungulates found in these forests. Rhesus macaque and common Langur are primates of the sanctuary. Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has recorded fifty three mammal species in the sanctuary.
Python, crocodile, king cobra, krait, monitor lizard, hill turtle are some common reptiles. The ZSI has recorded 10 species of amphibians, 27 species of reptiles and 75 species of insects.
Avian fauna of the sanctuary is diverse and it is represented by several species exclusive to Himalayan terai belt. Kaleej Pheasant, hill myna, paradise fly catcher, Himalayan bulbul, lesser adjutant stork, white backed and slender billed vultures are some exclusive birds of the sanctuary. Water bodies in and around the sanctuary also attracts winter migrants such as common pochard, red crested pochard, pintail, brahminy duck and black necked stork. 241 birds spp have been reported so far from VTR.
The Valmiki landscape harbors vivid socio-cultural diversity. ‘Tharu’, a scheduled tribe, is the dominant community in the landscape. There are several theories on colonization of this community in the Himalayan terai. It is said that the community migrated from Rajasthan to the Himalayan foothills some 400 years ago. Their prime occupation is agriculture and staple food is rice. They are non-vegetarian and like chicken, pork, snails and fish and gents relish liquor locally prepared from jaggary. Tharus speak Bhojpuri and worship Hindu deities. Ramnavmi is their main festival. They also maintain socio-cultural relationship with the Tharus of Nepal. Their population is around 2.5 lakh.
The scheduled tribes other than Tharu in the Valmiki landscape are collectively called Dhangar – which means retained labourer in Oraon dialect. Dhangar comprises of four tribes: Oraon, Munda, Lohra and Bhuiya. The ‘Dhangars’ were brought to area as agriculture laborer from the Chhotanagpur Hills. Each Dhangar tribe has its own dialect and they observe their traditional festivals. Currently their population is around 0.5 lakh.
Communities other than the tribes are called ‘Bajiyan’. They are outsiders and involved in agriculture as well as small business in the villages.
Valmiki forests present memorable experience for nature lovers. Some of the interesting locales for trekking and visits include:
The forests of Ganauli and Harnatanr - fronts and the core shelters with streams and rivers.
- Dense Sal forests of Raghia Range
- Undisturbed hill sal forest along the northern border contiguous to Chitwan National Park, Nepal.
- A unique expanse of 26 hamlets and villages embedded in the forests known as the Done area.
- The peaks of Someshwar hills overlooking India and Nepal through awful and mesmerizing gorges tearing through the Terai hills.
- The dense and deep pockets of forest in the oblong section of Someshwar Block from Gabardhana to Dhumatanr – Jasauli.
- The wetlands, swamps and mixed forests of riparian tract of Gandak River in the Madanpur Range.
- Vast expense of high grasslands in Madanpur Range.
- Barrage across river Gandak at Valmikinagar at Indo-Nepal border.
- The legendary site of hermitage of Valmiki – the ancient sage in Nepal across Sonha River near Valmikinagar.
- Vantage points at many locations to behold the captivating views of the snow clad ranges and peaks of the lofty Himalayas.
- The Bhitiharawa Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi near Gaunaha in the eastern end.
- The Ashokan Pillar (polished stone) and Baudh Stupas at Lauriya and Nandangarh.
- Udaipur Wildlife Sanctuary (an Ox-bow lake surrounded by natural mixed forests) near Bettiah.
- The entry point of river Pandai and the legendary Railway terminals at Bhikhna Thori made by the British North Bengal Railways.
- The Jatashankar, Nardevi, Sonfa, and Madanpur Devi Asthan temples.
- The Someshwar Temple atop Someshwar peak of mythical fame.
Best months to see the Valmiki wilderness:
October to March is the best time to visit the sanctuary. The winter months (December to mid-February) are colder and the minimum temperature goes down to 7 – 8 degree Celsius. Heavy warm clothing are desired in winter.
How to Reach:
Through Railways: The sanctuary is situated on Gorakhpur–Muzaffarpur (via Narkatiganj) rail route. Direct train are available from major cities of the Country to reach the sanctuary. Daily/weekly trains are available from New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Siliguri, Dehradun and Amritsar to arrive at Bagaha (to reach western part of the sanctuary) and Narkatiaganj (to reach central and eastern part of the sanctuary). Muzaffarpur and Gorakhpur are the nearest major junctions to get passenger/mail/express trains for Bagaha and Narkatiaganj. The Field Directorate located at district headquarters of West Champaran at Bettiah, about 70 km from the sanctuary, is also on the same rail route.
Road Approach: The sanctuary is about 275 km from Patna, the capital city of Bihar; 200 km from Muzaffarpur, major city and railhead of North Bihar; 70 km for Bettiah, district headquarters of West Champaran; and 125 km from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, by road. Vehicles can be hired from these places to reach the sanctuary.
Nearest Airports: Patna, Kolkata and Gorakhpur.
Accommodation: Valmiki Vihar, a tourist lodge of State Tourism Development Corporation Hotel is located at picturesque site at Valmikinagar. Twelve double-bed rooms are available here. Forest Rest Houses of two double-bedrooms each are also there. These are located at Kotraha, Ganauli, Madanpur, Naurangia Done, Gobardhana, Manguraha and Manpur.
|Manguraha Rest House
||Kotraha Rest House
||Naurangia Done Rest House