National parks are one of the greatest ways that we as humans can extend our care and concern for the earth. All around the world, National parks have been used to conserve and preserve forests, wildlife, and the flora and fauna of a place; and by doing so, preserve the natural habitats of many rare as well as commonly found species. Governments, both on a national as well as state level have taken measures toward wildlife conservation by treating these havens as protected areas, even though it sometimes comes at the cost of the displacement of tribes and communities.
Jim Corbett National Park was one such place, having had many communities come and go before the area was turned into a protected zone. The entire region once belonged to the princely state of Tehri Garhwal - a district in the hilly regions of Uttarakhand. The region often found itself vulnerable to the Rohillas - a pashtun community who had invaded Uttarakhand to take revenge on the Raja of Kumaon to avenge the death of his father. With the combined efforts of the Raja of Tehri and Kumaon’s armies they still suffered defeat, and the Rohillas invaded Tehri. Later, the Raja of Tehri partnered gave away part of their land to the East India Company in exchange for protection from the Gorkhas. The Buksas, an indigenous tribe from the Terai took over the rest of the land and started cultivating crops and produce until the British ousted them from the land that was given to them. Shortly after in the 19th century, efforts were being made toward the conservation of the land by Major Ramsey and in 1868 they established control over the land. By 1879 the forests were fully protected and converted to a reserve forest that prohibited activities that would endanger it. It was in the early 1900s that talks of turning it into a National Park arose, and the process of demarcating the land began shortly after in 1930.
Originally named Hailey National Park -
In 1936, Sir Malcolm Hailey, the then Governor of the United Provinces, created a reserve area that covered a stretch of 323.75km and called it the Hailey National Park. Hailey National Park was Asia’s first ever national park and gained popularity fairly soon. There were laws laid down on hunting and poaching. Any form of killing of animals in the area was prohibited.
Renaming of the park -
Later, the reserve was renamed to Ramganga National Park after the name of the river that flowed through it. The name stayed for about a year after which it was renamed as Jim Cobett National Park after the man Jim Corbett, an author, naturalist, environmentalist and hunter of man-eaters in the area.
The park was well managed by the British in the 1930’s, but the second world war changed it and poaching, hunting, and timber cutting became rampant, and the area was slowly dying. To resuscitate it back to life, in 1991, the area was increased and a Corbett Tiger Reserve was added, including the entire region of the Kalagarh forest division. The well-known Project Tiger wildlife conservation initiative was kicked off here by the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, as a measure to increase the population of tigers and protect the tigers that were left in the country. It was the first park to come under the Project Tiger initiative.
As of today, the park remains one among the thirteen other protected areas that are taken care of by the World Wide Fund for Nature, and aims to protect the tiger, the asian elephant and the one-horned rhinoceros. Several corridors have been restored at the Jim Corbett National Park, allowing for wildlife to migrate freely and easily.
The man behind the name - Jim Corbett
James Corbett was a colonel in the British Indian Army who was the go-to person to be called in by the government when it came to catching man-eating tigers and leopards that were terrorising the villages in the Kumaon-Garhwal regions.
Corbett was always fascinated with wildlife and loved being around the forests close to his home in Kaladhungi. Owing to how much time he spent being outdoors and with wildlife, he could name birds and animals and even identify the species by the sounds they made. Finding his passion, he soon grew to become an expert huntsman and tracker of wildlife. He could track them through their footprints, behaviours and smells. His experience with animals and unparallelled hunting skills, made him an expert at catching and killing man-eating tigers and leopards. His love for tigers and conservation led him to the furthest end and he went the extra mile to protect them by suggesting a national reserve for tigers.
Two years after his death, Jim Corbett’s efforts to protect both communities as well as wildlife were widely recognized and a national park was named after him. Today, the Jim Corbett National Park is known for its efforts in preserving and conserving wildlife.
India’s first National Park was finally and fully set up in 1936 and is today one of the most popular tourist attractions in India. One of the most thrilling experiences is the jeep safari drive into the thick of the forest to watch animals in their natural habitats, always tuned in to the sound of danger - be it the tiger or the leopard. On your lucky day, you may even get to spot a tiger or a leopard in the distance, though the animals usually tend to stay away from trouble and away from humans unless provoked.
Apart from the jungle safaris that are usually spread over two times during the day - one in the morning and another in the evening, there are a lot more other sights to see like the rich flora and fauna that thrives out in the wild. The national park sprawled over 521 sq. km also has beautiful waterfalls and tiny streams and rivers that cut across its thick foliage.
To keep it all the more exciting, the park also offers night stays with accommodation right inside the park, keeping you on your toes and on high alert all through the night.
Zones for tourists to visit -
To keep it an intact tourism package and a thrilling experience for wildlife enthusiasts, the park is divided into six different safari zones where one gets to enjoy the behaviours of animals and observe the wild from up close.
The Bijrani Safari Zone -
The Bijrani Safari Zone is said to be among the top two zones where there’s a higher chance of spotting a tiger or a leopard. It is one of the more popular tourist hubs with wide grasslands and thick green zones that allow for better grazing as well as prey spotting. The entry gate to this zone is just about one kilometer from Ramnagar city, and is usually a go-to spot for wildlife spotting.
The Jhirna Safari Zone -
The Jhirna Zone is also another popular tourist zone and is open round the year. It is about 16 kilometres from Ramnagar city and was an addition to the Jim Corbett National Park stretch in 1994. The reason for adding the Jhirna zone was to widen the reserve zone for tigers and make more room for them to thrive in the once farming zone. Lot of the villagers were relocated when the park undertook measures to expand the grasslands for tigers to thrive. It is also one of the only zones in the park to be open to visitors throughout the year and has a high footfall throughout the year.
The Dhela Safari Zone -
The Dhela Safari Zone which is the only other zone to be open throughout the year, is a new eco-tourism zone situated within the wide expanse that is the Jim Corbett National Park. With thick layers of flora and fauna well scattered around the area, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions along with the Bijrani zone. Located at a mere distance of 13km from Ramnagar city, the area is spread across a distance of seventy square kilometres. Being a popular tiger-hunting area, there is a watch-tower that was built for wildlife spotting and is a place that often finds tourists gathered around to get a good vantage point. With rich flora and fauna and open grasslands, the Dhela Jeep Safari Zone is just about 13 kilometres from Ramnagar City.
The Dhikala Zone -
The Dhikala Zone is one of the largest zones in the Jim Corbett National Park and is quite the sight to see. It is known for its green covers, abundant natural beauty as well as wild and gorgeous photographic spots. The terrain has a wide and beguiling range of exotic plants and species which makes it one of the favourite spots for wildlife enthusiasts and naturalists. The zone also offers tourists night stays in the thick of its green covers, making it an enthralling experience for visitors. It is said to be one of the most sought after tourism spots in India, and is proven to offer a memorable experience for tourists, hard core wildlife enthusiasts, photographers and the likes. The entry is about 18 kilometres from Ramnagar city.
The Durga Devi Zone -
What sets the Durga Devi Zone apart from the rest of the zones is it’s wild beauty that is unparallelled. It is said to have the most beautiful landscape in the entire park region of the Jim Corbett National Park, with beautiful forest covers on the hilly regions of Uttarakhand and a serene tranquility that makes it all the more memorable. There is a wide diversity of insect species, birds and exotic plants that perch themselves on these thick grasslands. The Ramganga river and the Mandal river cross their paths in this zone, which makes it quite the sight to see, and very different from the other zones. One may find exotic species of flora like the sheesham, khair, dhak, sisoo among thick vegetation of chir pine, chir choti, amla, gajar sot, and jamuns that are aplenty in the area. One also gets to witness the serene grazing of wildlife like the spotted deer, sambar deer who make a peculiar sound signalling the lurking of tigers in the area, barking deers, chital, different types of monkeys, the royal bengal tiger as well as wild boars. It is also said to have a higher population of wild elephants as compared to any other zone at the Jim Corbett National Park. There’s a peculiar fish called the Mahsheer fish which swim freely in the rivers and streams that trickle through this region.
The entry to the zone is about 36 kilometres away from Ramnagar city.
The Sitabani Buffer Zone -
Even though the Sitabani Buffer Zone falls out of the Corbett Tiger Reserve area, it is not too far away and makes for a great visit with the serenity of its natural landscapes. The Sitabani is also a wildlife reserve of its own and home to a wide range of exotic flora and fauna. On a lucky day one may even spot tigers and leopards among the several other species (over 500) of migrating birds and rare plants.
How to get to Jim Corbett National Park -
If you’re coming by train or bus, the closest stop is Ramnagar. One could also take a direct Ramnagar train from Delhi. On getting to Ramnagar, it takes just about 30 to 40 minutes to reach the park as the Ramnagar railway station is situated only around 15 kilometres away from Jim Corbett National Park.
If you’re travelling by road, there is quite good connectivity being only 260 kilometres away from Delhi. There are buses easily available as well as taxis for hire that would drive you all the way to the park.
Once inside the park, rest assured that you are in for the experience of a lifetime as it feels a lot like another world of its own and away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Other Useful Resources:
Official Website of the Corbett Tiger Reserve:
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