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Chitwan National Park

Introduction:
Formerly the Chitwan valley was well known over the world as one of the most famous places in Asia for wildlife, as it was covered with dense forest. There were a few scattered settlements of the ethnic Tharu people who were the original inhabitants and had some resistance to the deadly malaria. Between 1846 and 1950 Chitwan valley was completely wild, and well known as a hunting reserve of the Rana dynasty, as Jung Bahadur Rana had declared the Rhinoceros a royal game animal.

Chitwan national ParkThe Ranas used to invite the royalty and VIP’s from different parts of the world, (Great Britain, USA and India) to take part in the hunting which was organized on a magnificent scale. Before 1950 the diverse habitats of Chitwan were less disturbed because of the presence of malaria. But all this changed in 1960 when the malaria eradication program came into effect. Two thirds of the forest was lost and mammals such as the swamp deer and water buffalo were completely wiped out, while the numbers of rhino and four-horned antelope were dramatically reduced. The settlers cleared the forest and starting farming the fertile land. The name Chitwan has several possible origins, but the most likely one is the junction of two Nepalese words 'Chit' or 'Chita' meaning the heart and 'wan' or 'ban' meaning the jungle. Thus `Chitwan’ is the heart of the jungle and by the combination of luck and good management the meaning still holds true.

The Royal Chitwan National Park is located 165km from Kathamandu in the subtropical inner Terai of southern central Nepal with a latitude 270 34.78' to 270 35.53' N and longitude of 840 28.43' to 840 29.40' E. The Park has an area of 932 sq km, and was established in 1973, it received worldwide recognition when it was accorded UNEtSCO's World Heritage Site status in 1984. The Royal Chitwan National Park stands as a good example of successful nature conservation.

Vegetation and Habitat:
Chitwan national ParkThere are three major types of vegetation occuring in the park, namely Sal forest, riverine forest and grassland. 70% of the park is covered by Sal forest, 20% by grassland and 7% by riverine forest with the remaining 3% covered by a mixture of wetlands and Pine forest. The flood plains of the Narayani, Rapti and Reu Rivers as well as several ox-bow lakes, marshlands and swamps make prime habitat for wildlife, birds, reptiles, etc.

Chitwan National Park Wildlife:
The Royal Chitwan National Park offers opportunities for exciting and unique wildlife adventures. Although the park is famous for big game, there are 56 species of mammals in the park. The park holds the largest number of endangered Royal Bengal Tigers in Nepal. The park is famous for it’s protection of the Asian One Horned Rhino as well as the Asiatic Elephant, Asiatic Gaur, Chinese Pangolin and Gangetic Dolphin. Among the other wildlife found in the park are Sambar, Spotted, Hog and Barking Deer, Common Leopard, Sloth Bear, Jungle Cat and several species of Civet cats as well as Common Langur and Rhesus Macaque Monkeys, Ghariyal and Marsh mugger Crocodiles.

There are 126 species of fishes, 47 species of reptiles, 9 species of amphibians, 150 species of butterflies and 570 species of flowering plants found in the park.

Climate:
The park has a range of climatic seasons, October to February sees average temperatures of 250c, From March to June temperatures can reach as high as 43oc, then hot humid days give way to the monsoon season that typically lasts from late June until September when rivers become flooded and roads are impassible.