Bhadra sanctuary: Wildlifing in India’s youngest Tiger Reserve

(This article was originally published in Sunday Herald (Deccan Herald), Bangalore, 'Wildlifing in Bhadra' on 1st July 2001)

A view of the forest covered Jagara Valley




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Nestled amidst the lofty ranges of the Western Ghats is Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, India’s youngest Tiger Reserve. Bhadra although less known, is among Karnataka’s richest wildlife reserves. Spread over an area of 492 Sq. km in the malnad districts of Chikmagalur and Shimoga, Bhadra is a mosaic of different habitats, with bamboo being very common. Towards the northern part of the sanctuary the habitat is mainly dry deciduous inter spread with a huge reservoir, the Bhadra irrigation project or Lakavalli dam, as it is popularly known. Towards south the trees are much taller and are of moist deciduous type. Bababudain giri state forest, which is in the eastern part of the sanctuary, consists of Shola evergreen forests.


Although Bhadra consists of a big area, it is in fact divided into three parts. While the Aldera state forest is divided from the main body by the huge Bhadra reservoir, private coffee estates surround the Bababudain giri reserve forest.This forest was first given the status of a protected 

area in 1952 when 252 sq. km of it was declared as Jagara valley sanctuary, in 1952. The area was enlarged to the present 492 sq. km in 1974 and renamed as Bhadra. The sanctuary is extremely rich in wildlife, due to the diverse habitat and its proximity to Western Ghats. These forests have always been known for the big wild cats. They were a happy hunting ground for famous hunter Kenneth Anderson, who shot many blood thirsty man-eaters here, including the `Lakvalli man-eater’ fearing whom, 

construction work of the huge Bhadra reservoir had to be briefly abandoned. The sanctuary even today has a very healthy tiger population, the reason for which it was declared as a tiger reserve in 1999. Leopards, wild dogs, jungle cats, jackal, striped hyena and Indian fox are the main predators found here. Elephants have made Bhadra as their home since long and occasionally even enter surrounding coffee estates. Bhadra is known for its large population of Gaur or Indian bison. A severe outbreak of rinderpest epidemic during late eighties led to the death of many gaurs. The strict protection being afforded by the forest department has once again raised their numbers considerably. Chital or the spotted deer is the commonest deer here. Sambar and barking deer are also found here. Among the smaller mammals are Slender loris, Porcupine, Black napped hare and mouse deer. Giant malabar squirrels, which are endemic to the Western Ghats, can be seen in plenty at Muthodi. Along the streams and Bhadra reservoir, a number of otters and Marsh crocodiles can be seen.


The southern part of Bhadra, particularly the area around Muthodi is extremely rich in birds, butterflies and reptiles. The sanctuary is home to over 250 species of birds, many of which like the malabar pied hornbill, malabar Trogon, blue winged parakeet are endemic to the Western 

Ghats. Some of India’s most beautiful and big butterflies like red helen and blue mormon are found here. Rare and unique reptiles like the flying lizard can be seen gliding amidst the huge trees here. Malabar pit vipers and rare coral snakes are found here.Numerous streams flowing through the pristine forests form a major water source for the wildlife here. Among them is the Somavahini, a tributary of Bhadra river. During summer many animals can be found along the Bhadra reservoir.During rainy season, chances of sighting wildlife decrease due to misty conditions and the dense vegetation cover. But the scenery within and around the sanctuary with the backdrop of the Bababudain giri hills, during this period is spectacular. Sigekhan, a couple of kilometres from Muthodi is one such place. Standing atop the isolated forest bungalow one can enjoy entire landscape of the horseshoe shaped Bababudain giris and the Jagara valley within it. A walk around this place early morning or late evening can reveal some beautiful birds and rare wildlife. Kemmanagundi and Bababudain giri are the two hill stations near Muthodi.



Among the other interesting sites worth visiting within 

the sanctuary is Jagara giant. It is a huge teak tree, considered to be the biggest in Karnataka. The girth of this 300-year-old tree is 5.21 metres. The Salim Ali Nature centre is a must for those who visit Muthodi. The centre has a few trophies of wild animals along with a good library. Also there are facilities to screen wildlife movies on video.There are a few villages within the sanctuary with little basic amenities. Most of these villages are willing for rehabilitation out of the sanctuary. But the required funds are not coming from the government; hence the project hangs in balance. Once the villages are relocated, the biotic interference will decrease, so will the man-animal conflict.


Approach:
Muthodi, the head quarters of the sanctuary is 33 km from Chikmagalur. The road from Chikmagalur to Muthodi is lined by beautiful coffee estates and bubbling streams. The greenery along this road during monsoons is breathtaking. The nearest railhead is Kadur, which is 40 km from Chikmagalur. There are a few unmetalled tracks from Bababudain giris down to Muthodi, but these are very confusing and unapproachable during monsoons. Unlike other popular sanctuaries, there are no safari vehicles belonging to the forest department here, to take visitors into the forest. The park is closed from 6 PM to 6 AM.


Where to stay:

Muthodi is the main place for tourists to stay in Bhadra. There are a number of cottages here along with a couple of dormitories and rest houses. There are excellent facilities to organise nature camps. Food is available on request. There are a couple of forest rest houses deep inside the sanctuary like Hebbe and Kesave, but they are generally not open for tourists. Sigekhan, although at the edge of the sanctuary, is a nice place to stay and is easily approachable from Muthodi.

When to visit:
The best time to visit the park is from October to March. It is not advisable to visit the park during peak summer or from July to August when the monsoons are at their fury.

Permission to visit and halt in the sanctuary can to be obtained from:
1. Chief Wildlife Warden, 2nd floor, Aranya Bhavan,18th Cross, Malleswaram,
Bangalore – 560 005 Tel: 233419932.

2. Deputy Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Bhadra Wildlife Division, Chikmagalur – 577 101
Tele fax: 08262 -30751

For images of Baba Budan Giri State Forest, Bhadra Tiger Reserve, please click here
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For more information about a destination, have a tourist destination or your property listed on this page or to buy an image please email the author at tumkurameen@gmail.com 

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