About Corbett National Park

Introduction

The Corbett National Park is a primal jungle as Rudyard Kipling put it. Despite extensive tourism, the park has managed to retain its primeval ambience, where man must walk timorously, in awe and with a strong sense of his own insignificance. more pictures....

Set up in 1936 as India's first national park and possibly the finest, the Corbett National Park was first delimited in consultation with that great hunter and conserver, Jim Corbett. The park spans across some 920.9 square km at an altitude of 600 to 1100 metres about the foothills of the western Himalayas in the districts of Nainital and Pauri Garhwal in the state of Uttaranchal (formerly part of Uttar Pradesh). In its eventful 64-year life, it has grown considerably in size and now includes the Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary as a part of its 1,319 sq km of reserved forest area.

History

Prior to the years 1815-20 of the British Rule, the forests of the Jim Corbett National Park were the private property of the local rulers. Though the ownership had passed into the British hands, the government paid little or no attention to the upkeep of the park. The sole aim was to exploit the natural resources and extract as much profit as possible from the jungle.

It was only in the year 1858 that Major Ramsay drew up the first comprehensive conservation plan to protect the forest. He ensured that his orders are followed strictly and, by 1896 the condition of the forest began to improve. Ramsays plan reflected the deep thought he had given to the science of forestry. In 1861-62 farming was banned in the lower Patlidun valley. Cattle sheds were pulled down, domestic animals were driven from the forest and a regular cadre of workers was created to fight forest fire and secure the forest from illegal felling of trees. Licenses were issued for timber and count of trees was undertaken. In 1868, the Forest department assumed responsibility for the forests and in 1879 they were declared reserved forest under the forest Act.

In a letter dated January 3,1907, Sir, Michael Keen for the first time referred to the possibility of turning these forests into a game sanctuary however the proposal was turned down. It was years later in 1934 the governor, Sir Malcolm Hailey, supported the proposal for the sanctuary and wanted the enactment of a law to give it protection. To overcome the delays that legislation would entail the area was made into a reserve forest by the Chief Conservator of forest. Later in consultation with Major Jim Corbett, the boundaries of the park were demarcated and in 1936 The United Province national Park Act was enforced and this reserved forest became the first national Park of India. And it was aptly named Hailey National Park after its founder Sir, Malcolm Hailey

Initially the park measured merely 323.75 square kilometers, but to accommodate wild animals like Tigers and Elephants, it was expanded to its present area of 520 square kilometers (core area) in 1966. The year 1973 was a landmark in the field of wildlife preservation. It was in this year that wildlife preservationist and naturalists from around the world launched PROJECT TIGER the most prestigious and biggest total environmental conservation project ever undertaken. The Jim Corbett National Park has the distinction of having been chosen the venue for the inauguration of this project.

Colonel Jim Corbett

Colonel Jim Corbett was born at Nainital in 1875, the eighth child of Christopher and Mary Jane Corbett. His father was the postmaster of Nainital. He did his matriculation at Nainital's Philanders Smith College where he was admired by his masters for his modesty and retiring nature. He did not pursue his academics any further.

He spent his summers at Gurni House in Nainital while in winters he went down to Kaladhungi in the tarai jungles. It was here he was taught how to fire a gun by his eldest brother, to. Their bungalow in Kaladhungi was inside a dense forest in which a large variety of plants and animals found refuge. The abundance of wildlife in Nainital those days can be gauged from the fact that Jim spotted tigers and leopards within a six and a half-kilometer radius of the temple of the goddess Naini. As a result of living in such exotic and beautiful surroundings he developed a spontaneous affinity with nature.

At the tender age of ten he found himself addicted to hunting, he had shot his first leopard and would just pick up and train his gun on any wild animal he encountered in the Jungle. When he was eighteen he joined the railways at Mokama Ghat in Bihar working as fuel inspector and assistant station master. He then became a labour contarctor.

When the World War I broke in 1914, he took a batch of five hundred Kumaon labourers to France. He was good at recruiting and organizing labour and was able to make them work for him willingly. He also helped the British government by training allied soldiers in jungle warfare, he then hold the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1920 after his health broke down he resigned from the job and returned to Nainital and for the next twenty-four years he served as an elected member of the Nainital municipal Board.

While serving in the railways at Mokama Ghat, he would spend his holidays at Kaladhungi. Shikar of course would claim most of his time, He had bagged two man eaters, a feat which made his name a house hold name in the far flung areas and long before he was known as a skilled jungle man leading Shikar parties for the dignitaries. It was during one such Shikar parties with three army officers the turning point came in the life of Jim - One a Shikar party somewhere in northern India they came upon a lake with thousands of water fowls. They were delighted to see the sight and shots rang echoing in the entire valley. In a matter of minutes their count stood at three hundred waterfowls. Jim could not stomach this sacrilege. From that day he developed an aversion to this type of Shikar. And while his friends were overjoyed Jim vowed never to kill a beast without a reason. After he had killed a man-eater known as the Kuara of Pawalgadh in the mid thirties he gave up Shikar as a sport. There after he shot only t hose tigers which had turned man-eaters or cattle lifters.

Jim considered it his duty to kill such dangerous animals, a duty he carried out faithfully till his last days. E killed his last man-eater when he was well past sixty In those days the terror of Man-eaters loomed heavy on the regions of Kumaon and Garwhal and Jim was the only man who had the guts to take on and kill such bloodthirsty beasts, endowed as he was with his superlative skills required for the job he killed man-eaters in their den, in open grassland, in dense forest and on rocky slopes. Some of his most famous encounters are published in his six books of which the man-eaters of Kumaon and The Man Eating Leopard of Rudra Prayag are well renowned.

After World War II he settled in Kenya with his sister Maggie. It was there that at the ripe age of eighty he passed away leaving behind a legacy which still reverberate in the valleys of Kumaon and Garwhal.

In all his years serving the cause of wildlife preservation and later deliverer of peace and tranquility in the man eater infested regions of Kumaon and Garwhal Jim became inherent with the wildlife conservation and the Indian Government in 1956 renamed the park - Corbett National Park in honour of Jim Corbett the powerful missionary for wildlife preservation in India. A fitting tribute to the White Saint.

Corbett has been a haunt for tourists and wildlife lovers for a long time. Tourism is allowed in selected areas of Corbett Tiger Reserve so that people get an opportunity to see its splendid landscape and the diverse wildlife living here. In recent years the number of people coming here has increased dramatically. Presently, every season more than 70,000 visitors come to the park from India and abroad.

FACTS & FIGURES

  • Area: 600 sq km (core area of 322 km)
  • Altitude: 400 - 1200 meter above the sea level
  • Languages: English, Hindi
  • Best Time to Visit: February to May
  • STD Code 05945 (Ramnagar)
  • Annual rainfall: 1400-2800 mm.
  • Temperature range: 4°C in winter to 42°C during summer.
Tourist Attractions

The main feature of this ridged valley is the Ramganga River, running broadly west by south west, the catchment streams of which vivisect the land into numerous little ridges and ravines. The topography is therefore very varied-the streams forming islands of 'sheesham' trees, the ridges being thickly foliated with 'sal' trees and the pastures carrying long grasses. In this variety of habitat abounds wildlife of enchanting beauty including 50 mammals, 577 birds and at least 25 reptiles. The river teems with mahseer, gharial, mugger and flocks of cormorants.

Project Tiger was inaugurated here on April 1, 1973. The center of tourist

activity in the park always continues to be Dhikala, at the heart of the core area. Here, substantial residential accommodation has been built along one end of a large grassy plateau perched on the edge of the cliff bordering the Ramganga reservoir.

Apart from tigers (90 in number in 1984), leopards as well as lesser cats such as the leopard cat, jungle cat, and fishing cat are also found here. The sloth bear, Himalayan black bear, dhole, jackal, yellow throated marten, Himalayan palm civet, Indian grey mongoose, common otter, porcupine, black naped hare are the other attractions of this area. It is possible to see elephants all over the park.

Four species of deer are found here. These are the barking deer, para, kakkar, and the well known spotted deer chital. The goat antelopes are represented by the ghoral.

There is a lot for the bird watching opportunities in this park as it has over 580 species of birds. Most of the water birds are the migrant variety, and arrive in winters. Some of these are the graylag, bareheaded goose, duck, grepe, snipe, sandpiper, gull and wagtail. The residents include darters, cormorants, egrets, herons, the black-necked stork and the spur winged lapwings.

The reptiles, which are residents of this area, are the rare fish eating, long-nosed crocodile gharial, and a few species of turtles and tortoises. The Indian python, viper, cobra, krait and king cobra also inhabit the Corbett National Park.

The national park offers invaluable experiences for adventurous and serious-minded wildlife-buffs, photographers and anglers. It is advantageous to have one's own vehicle here. Walking in some areas is permitted, but only when accompanied by a guide. Elephant rides for wildlife viewing, in the mornings and evenings, can be booked in the Dhikala complex.