Monday, February 17, 2014

A dreamy (?!) night at Katarnia Ghat Wildlife Sanctuary

I got one more reason to love Dudhwa…
Dudhwa has always been my favorite when it comes to wildlife and after this visit ( Feb' 2014), I got one more reason to love it - Katarnia Ghat Wildlife Sanctuary, some 100 kilometers from Dudhwa National Park. 

After exploring Dudhwa National park and  Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary, we were all set for Katarnia Ghat Wildlife Sanctuary.  A beautiful drive through villages of UP and then alongside a river for a few kilometers took us to a small village called Bichia. Our GPS also failed us after reaching a point. Guide Sanu accompanied us from here to the forest rest house. We drove through 10kms of dense forest of Sal, teak and lots of other varieties of plantations. The sun rays were struggling to reach the ground… it seemed as if all the trees and the shrubs have conspired against the ground and joined hands to seize all the light that sun has to offer. Driving through this magical way with rich flora on both sides and fauna that our eyes could not locate, we felt like drifting through some magical land - the fragrance of the jungle, the silence that is being disturbed by occasional chirping of birds and chatter of monkeys, the cool fresh air that we could feel on our faces.  

The dreamland…
My already excited heart leaped with happiness when we reached there. The sun was about to bid adieu. Golden rays of sun reaching the ground after filtering through the leaves created an atmosphere that seemed no less than a dreamland to me. As a child I have always dreamt of a house in the lap of nature, and this rest house in the middle of the jungle being caressed by the branches of an old bamboo tree and kissed by the golden sunlight was like a dream come true. 
A hot cup of tea in the cold dreamy evening
After having a hot cup of tea in the cold dreamy evening we accompanied Sanu for a jungle walk.  Walking through this beautiful jungle Sanu told us some facts and figures about it.

The sanctuary was founded in 1975 and is an integral part of the Terai Eco-System along with Dudhwa National Park and Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary. Spread over an area of around 440 square kilometers with sal and teak forests, lush grasslands and wetlands alongside the Girwa River, Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary is located near the Indo-Nepal Border of India in the Bahraich district of Uttar Pardesh bordering Nepal on one side and Dudwa national park on the other.The sanctuary can be experienced driving along a 40 kilometer road that passes through the Motipur , Kakraha , Murthia and Nishangarah Ranges and ends at the Katerniaghat Range.

Home to a large number of mammals that include the Tiger, Elephant, Leopard, Chital, Wildboars, Civets, Mongoose, Wild Cat and Otters, Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary is unique as one can experience and sight the most endangered species at one place. These include the Royal Bengal Tiger, Ghariyal, Gangatic Dolphin and the critically endangered vultures. This combination is hard to see in any other forest. A pair of albino Chital and a black leopard has also been sighted in the Nishangarah Range.

The forest at places is dominated by the Sal Tree and Asna. Other flora includes Haldu, Kusum. and Rohini trees.Teak with others tree like Chamraudhi and Jamun are also in abundance. The grassland consists of species like Saccharum munja, Shaccharum spontaneum, and Antidon and it has irregular plantations of trees like Khair, Semal and Shisha. Peepal and Bargad trees can also be seen in some areas.
Evening walk through the jungle
The Sanctuary is a bird watchers paradise too. Migratory birds include the Red Creasted Pochards, Tuftted Duck, Greater Creasted Grebe, Gadwall, Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Pintail , Northern Shoveler, Bar Headed Goose and Common Pochards. The forest is filled by the songs of the oriole and bulbuls along with the shama and birds like the Greenbilled Malkoha , Sirkeer Malkoha, Yellow footed Green pigeons, Orange Breasted Green Pigeon, Bee Eaters, Red Jungle Fowl and the beautiful Oriental Pied Hornbill along with the Indian Grey Hornbill are also common. Raptors like the Created Serpent Eagle, Fishing Eagle, Vulture, Sikkra Honey Buzzard and Osprey can also be seen. The night sky is dominated by the Indian Nightjar and owls like the Asian Barred Owlet and Spotted Owlet.

Dream turning into a nightmare…
With an anticipation of having a peaceful dreamy night, sleeping in midst of all this wild life hearing the sounds of the jungle, we came back to the rest house and were surprised to see the environment. The dream has been turned into a nightmare. There was a generator breaking the silence, kids running around like in an amusement park, some kids crying at top of their voices and staff running here and there to serve the master… that happens to be some VIP. Not only the silence but the whole atmosphere has been destroyed by the presence of this noisy so-called VIP family.  
I wonder if we humans, who are so used to all this noise, were so disturbed, what effect will this artificially created noise, light and pollution will have on animals and plants of the area to whom the forest belong. We have already captured much of their space…. can’t we leave atleast these sanctuaries and reserve forests for them who deserve to live there peacefully. We spent the night full of anger for those who just don’t know how to behave in a forest and come here to throw their weight around on the staff.

Boat safari in Girwa River…
Morning bought with it some peace. After having light bite we proceeded for boat safari in Girwa River. 

Walking towards the Girwa river
The boatman told us that the river is dominated by the Gharial (alligator) and Muggar (Crocodile) which can be seen basking on the sand bars. Turtle of various kinds can also be seen basking in the sun. One can see the Lesser Whistling Teel in large number and small pranticoles on the sand bar. But it being a foggy day we could not spot any. The unique thing about the river is the presence of the Gangatic Dolphin which playfully jump in the waters of Girwa. The boatman could feel the presence of a baby dolphin and stopped the rudder of the boat for some time. We were floating in the area of the dolphins… and there a sudden splash in the water accredited the presence of a dolphin there.

Floating in the area of the dolphins

On this visit of ours to the Terai Eco-System that includes Dudhwa National Park, Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary and Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary we experienced forest in all possible modes. Elephant safari followed by jeep safari then a jungle walk and then boat safari... What else can a forest lover ask for!
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