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Wild Chhattisgarh

Wild Chhattisgarh

Rugged mountains, deep gorges, geomorphic caves, dense forests and more make Chhattisgarh an unmatchable refuge for wildlife. A universe unto itself with natural riches beyond compare – the state encompasses several Protected Areas. It is this exquisite legacy that Wild Chhattisgarh celebrates. However, today, the challenge of climate change, coupled with slow but persistent habitat destruction is very real across India. The future of Chhattisgarh depends on planners looking upon its forests and natural ecosystems as sources of life and not merely resources or raw materials for short-term objectives. The biodiversity-rich ecosystems written about and illustrated on these pages have a value that far exceeds superficial aesthetics. These natural infrastructures are critical to Chhattisgarh’s water, food, economic and social security.

Photo: Vishal Trehan.

Monsoon-fed rivers and streams criss-crossing Chhattisgarh’s  impressive forested landscapes have given rise to some of the most majestic waterfalls. Here, in the lush forests of Bastar, we see the milky white Mahendri Ghumar waterfalls plummet 100 m. into the green depths below, against an ethereal rusty-orange sky.

Photo: Amitava Majumder.

This stunning, unusual-looking winged insect is a plume moth from the Pterophoridae family. It was photographed at the Guru Ghasidas National Park in northern Chhattisgarh. Those who wish to experience such sightings in truly wild forests should head for this amazing state.

Photo: Hrishikesh Patil.

It’s a complicated and fascinating food web, with each species contributing its bit to keep the forest ‘health chain’ going. The little-explored Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary offers micro-lifeforms such as this trapdoor spider Idiops sp., a tiny predator, as much opportunity to thrive as it does the leopard.

Photo: Gaurav Shirodkar.

This young Indian monitor lizard Varanus bengalensis makes itself at home, camouflaged well against the trunk of a tree in the Achanakmar Tiger Reserve. The monitor may grow to 175 cm. from tip of the tail to its snout. Adults tend to hunt on the ground, while young monitors favour trees, where, safe from larger predators, they hunt smaller prey including birds and even insects.

Photo: R.P. Mishra/WTI.

A rare and endangered canid, the Indian wolf Canis lupus pallipes, is an apex predator in the food web. The presence of such creatures is an indication of the immense regenerative potential of the tropical dry-deciduous Udanti-Sitanadi Tiger Reserve, which offers safe refuge to species typical of the central Indian landscape.

Photo: Amit Kher.

Twin sloth bears Melursus ursinus quench their thirst at a waterhole in the Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary. The beautiful 244 sq. km. park, which once used to harbour healthy populations of Asiatic wild buffalos Bubalus arnee and tigers Panthera tigris, now enthralls visitors with sightings of Indian leopards Panthera pardus fusca, sloth bears and gaur Bos gaurus.

Photo Courtesy: WTI.

Though parts of Chhattisgarh have been afflicted by years of insurgency, wild species still manage to hold tenuously on to survival. A tiger, captured on a camera-trap in the Udanti-Sitanadi Tiger Reserve represents a very real symbol of hope and wildlife revival.

Photo Courtesy: Chhattisgarh Forest Department.

Lesser known Protected Areas such as the Bhoramdeo Wildlife Sanctuary hold a diversity of incredible wildlife. The two Indian leopard subadults captured on a camera-trap are a stunning testimony to the true biodiversity of this forgotten wilderness.

Photo: Anzaar Nabi.

Here today, gone tomorrow! The floor of this tropical deciduous forest in Bastar, Chhattisgarh, reveals a striking stinkhorn mushroom of the family Phallaceae, which has emerged from the rich soil, but will survive a mere 12 hours before withering away. Lesser and greater flora and fauna are equally critical to the long-term functioning of natural ecosystems.

Photo: Zeeshan Mirza.

This Zingiber cernuum with its arresting red fruiting bodies was photographed far from its hitherto assumed endemic range within the Western Ghats in south India. Little-studied wildernesses such as the Udanti Wildlife Sanctuary in Chhattisgarh need to be protected and studied, or we stand to lose precious flora and fauna even before recording their existence.

Photo: Amit Kher.

The delicate, soft, white flowers of the Gardenia gummifera, a short, deciduous, sparsely-distributed central Indian tree, are commonly seen. Its derivatives are used by tribal communities to treat a range of ailments, including coughs, colds and toothaches.

Photo: Mayur Raipure.

Fast-depleting forest cover, attributed to mining and other anthropogenic causes in the neighbouring states of Odisha and Jharkhand, have forced elephant herds to wander afar in search of safe harbour. Some have found their way into the relatively less-disturbed, wilder forests of Chhattisgarh. One such herd is regular seen in the Dharamjaigad forests in Raigad district of the state.

Source: First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXVII No. 6, June 2017.


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