The Sundarbans National Park is in West Bengal, India. It is one of India’s biggest protected habitats for the gorgeous Bengal Tiger and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve. These titles indicate its rich abundance of plants and animals and account for its popularity amongst locals and tourists alike. It was established as the main centre of the larger Sundarbans Tiger Reserve in 1973 and was made an official wildlife sanctuary four years later. In 1984, it was declared a National Park.The Biosphere Reserve is entirely forested. In total, the park comprises 54 islands, through which the Ganga distributaries run. This park is also known as the world’s largest estuarine mangrove forest, home to more than half of all of the mangrove species in existence, as well as the largest delta in the subcontinent. There are many rivers throughout Sundarbans, which are the point at which salt water and fresh water mix. The salt water originates from the Bay of Bengal and the fresh water from the sacred Ganges River.
The Sundarbans National Park enjoys a hot, humid climate with heavy rainfall. These conditions are ideal for the fertility and prospering of the vegetation, which sustains the animal populations. Between about June and September, the monsoon season hits this area, making it even wetter than usual. May and October experience intense storms and even cyclones.
Although this moist, lush environment is currently home to a plethora of plant and animal life, it is under threat because of human interference, industrial development and pollution. The unique positioning, the water supply sources and their effect on the land have created a unique ecosystem, which is both fascinating and of huge value to India. Therefore, several maintenance and protection initiatives have been undertaken to prevent the complete ruination of this treasure.
Some of the exciting vegetation that characterises the area includes Kankra, Khalsi, Dhundal, Passur, Sundari and Goran. Many of these bloom vibrantly coloured flowers that delight the senses and give the area an unrivalled beauty. However, in addition to flora, this area also boasts an array of fauna, including hundreds of Bengal Tigers, which are always a special and memorable sight. Other animals include wild boars, mongooses, Pangolins, Chitals, Flying Foxes, Jungle Cats, storks, kites, egrets, kingfishers, ducks, eagles, King Cobras, Gangetic Dolphins, turtles, Hard Shelled Batgun Terrapins and the popular Estuarine Crocodile. There are several endangered species that are currently being preserved in the Sundarbans National Park, including the Bengal Tiger, Gangetic Dolphin, Ground Turtle, Hawks Bill Turtle and Estuarine Crocodile.
Part of the process of protecting this area includes eradicating all human contact with certain parts of Sundarbans. In other areas, armed staff members conduct frequent patrols from boats, looking for poachers and other criminals. In addition to such drastic measures, the Sundarbans National Park offers various programmes designed to educate and train people regarding ecology and conservation. Research is also conducted in this area to increase knowledge and, thereby, empower the researchers involved in maintaining this region.
Kolkata’s airport is 112 kilometres from the park, and the closest city (Gosaba) is only 50 kilometres away. Tourists are advised to visit the park between November and February, when the Bengal Tigers are at their most visible.
For more information: http://www.sunderbansnationalpark.com/