Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary: A beautiful and popular sanctuary of West Bengal

Although West Bengal is a comparatively smaller state, it provides variety of floras and fauna in its different sanctuaries and national parks. In this article, the author describes Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, which is very rich in flora and fauna both of Himalayan region and of Tarai region.

West Bengal has fifteen wildlife sanctuaries and six national parks. These sanctuaries and national parks are spread all over the state. Some of them are located in the Himalayas and in the Tarai region, some are in the central part of the state and some are located in the extreme south which is known as Sundarban area. There are wide variations in flora, fauna and geographical features in these sanctuaries and national parks.

Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary covers an area of 158 square kilometers. It is spread over varying elevations. The altitude varies from 500 feet at the southern end near Sukna (near Siliguri) and rises to 4300 feet towards the northern end near Latpanchar. On the east, the border of the sanctuary is river Teesta and on the west, the Mahanadi river and Hill Cart Road. The entrance to the sanctuary is at Sukna which is about two and a half hours jeep drive from Darjeeling. If the tourists vist from New Jalpaiguri (NJP), it takes about 45 minutes to reach the entrance gate. The sanctuary is managed by Darjeeling Wildlife Division of the State Government.

Trees and plants found in the sanctuary

The sanctuary offers a wide variety of plantations. Within the sanctuary, there are different types of plants and trees depending upon the altitude. There are approximately 330 types of plantations in the sanctuary. The tourists will be able to see khair, sisoo, simul and sal trees at lower elevations. At higher altitude, the tourist will be able to observe teak, gamar, mandane and different types of ferns and orchids. The grassland inside the sanctuary is also significant.

Wildlife in the sanctuary

There are more than fifteen Royal Bengal Tigers in the sanctuary. If the tourists are lucky, they would be able to see those royal animals in their natural habitat. Elephants are seen in the lower altitude. In addition to tiger and elephant, Himalayan Black Bear, leopards, Indian Bison, wild boar, mountain goat ('serow'-which is very rare), golden cat, sambar, spotted and barking deer, porcupines and different species of monkeys and languors can be seen in the sanctuary. There are various types of reptiles in the sanctuary.

Bird-watching in the sanctuary

Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary is a haven for bird-watchers. More than 243 different species of birds have been recorded in the sanctuary. These include hornbills, peafowls, monal pheasant and other pheasants, egrets, kingfisher, drongo, macaque, robin, woodpeckers, koel, etc. During the winter season, a large number of migratory birds arrive in the sanctuary from central Asia.

A beautiful museum at the entrance

There is a big and well-maintained museum at the entrance to the forest at Sukna. The museum contains many exhibits. The tourists can see preserved skins and stuffed body of wild animals. There are many exhibits of flora available in this forest. The tourists will be impressed by the methodically kept records and exhibits in the museum.

Facilities available

The WBFDC forest lodge provides excellent facilities. This lodge can be booked from the WBFDC's Salt Lake office in Kolkata. Facilities of elephant safari are available. In addition, jeeps are allowed inside the sanctuary with prior permission. The Forest Department has created many artificial salt-licks inside the forest. There are some watch-towers built for the tourists near these artificial salt-licks. The State Government has been trying to develop eco-tourism with the help of villagers living around the forest. Guides are available for the tourists.

How to visit the sanctuary

As already stated, the entrance to Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary is at Sukna at a distance of 8 kms from Siliguri and 14 kms from NJP on Hill Cart Road. The entrance is near the Toy Train station at Sukna. Tourists can also hire jeeps from Darjeeling and visit the sanctuary.

Summing up

Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary gives an opportunity to the tourists to witness the flora and fauna of the Himalayan region and also of the Tarai region. The accessibility of the sanctuary is very good. The facilities are also excellent. Tourists visiting Darjeeling or adjacent areas may plan to visit this beautiful and calm sanctuary to rejuvenate themselves in the lap of nature.


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