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Gorumara National Park

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Gorumara National Park (Bengali: গরুমারা জাতীয় উদ্যান Gorumara Jatio Uddan) is a National Park in northern West Bengal, India. Located in the Terai region of the Himalayan foothills, it is a medium-sized park with grasslands and forests. It is primarily known for its population of Indian Rhinoceros. The park has been declared as the best among the protected areas in India by the Ministry of Environment and Forests for the year 2009.[1]

History

Gorumara was a reserve forest since 1895. The park was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1949, on account of its breeding population of Indian Rhinoceros. It was declared an Indian National Park on January 31, 1994. Originally as small as 7 km², Gorumara has grown by incorporating neighbouring lands to about 80 km².

Geography

Political Geography: The park is located in the Malbazar subdivision of Jalpaiguri district, in the state of West Bengal in India.

Physical geography: Gorumara is located in the Eastern Himalayas' submontane Terai belt. This region has rolling forests and riverine grasslands, and is known as the Dooars in West Bengal. The park is located on the flood plains of the Murti River and Raidak River. The major river of the park is the Jaldhaka river, a tributary of the Brahmaputra river system. In this regard, Gorumara is a significant watershed area between the Ganges and Brahmaputra river systems. The park is very close to the Jaldapara Wildlife Reserve and Chapramari Wildlife Reserve.

The park is 79.99 km² in area.

Climate: The temperature ranges from 10 to 21 degrees C from November to February, 24 to 27 degrees C from March to April and 27 to 37 degrees C from May to October. Rainfall mostly occurs between mid-May to mid-October and average annual rainfall is 382 cm.

Human history

There is no history of human habitation in the park. The park forest bungalow dates back to the British Raj era, and contains a well-maintained log book from its inception, which makes for interesting reading. However Gorumara is encircled by many ethnic villages. More than 10,000 resident forest villagers derive their income from sources including employment in forest department activities, ecotourism, etc. Some of the villages are Sarswati, Budhuram, Bichabhanga, Chatua, Kailipur and Murti Forest Village.

Natural history

Gorumara Deep Forest Arnab Dutta

A road inside the park

Biomes

The park falls in the Indomalaya ecozone. Inside the park, the primary biomes corresponding to the ecozone are:

  • Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands of the Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome
  • Lower Gangetic Plains moist deciduous forests of the Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests biome

Both of these are typical of the Bhutan - Nepal - India Terai submontane region.

Flora

Typical flora include:

  • Sal forests with Common Teak, Rain Tree (Shirish or Albizia lebbeck), and Silk Cotton (Shimul or Bombax malabaricum) trees
  • Bamboo groves, Terai grassland vegetation and tropical riverine reeds

Gorumara is home to numerous tropical orchids.

Fauna

The park has recorded fifty species of mammals, 193 species of birds, 22 species of reptiles, 7 species of turtles, 27 species of fishes and other macro and micro fauna.

Mammals: The Park is rich in large herbivores including Indian Rhinoceros, Gaur, Asian Elephant, Sloth bear, Chital, and Sambar Deer. Small herbivores include Barking deer, Hog deer and Wild boar. There is a comparative lack of large carnivores, with the only big cat being the Leopard. The park is not home to any resident population of Bengal Tigers, Indian Wild Dogs or Indian Wolf. Tigers are, however, occasionally spotted here. It does have numerous small carnivores including various civets, mongooses and small cats. The park has a large resident population of Wild boar, but the critically endangered Pygmy Hog has been reported from the park. It also has numerous rodents, including Giant Squirrels. The rare Hispid Hare has also been reported from the park.

Birds: Gorumara National Park is famous for its bird population - which includes brilliant submontane forest birds like the Scarlet Minivet, Sunbird, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Spangled Drongo and Great Indian Hornbill. Numerous woodpeckers and pheasants inhabit the park. Peafowls are very common. The park is on the flyway of numerous migratory birds, including the rare Brahminy Duck.

Reptiles and amphibians: The park is home to a large number of snakes, venomous and non-venomous, including the Indian Python, one of the largest snakes in the world, and the King Cobra - the world's largest venomous snake.

Conservation issues

The major conservation focus of the park is to maintain a viable breeding community of Indian Rhinoceroses. However, the lack of large predators has caused significantly worrying skews in the populations of large herbivores in the park. The rhinoceros male:female ratio, usually 1:3, shot up to 1:1 - resulting in male dominance fights and deaths. The Gaur population also doubled in recent years, with risk of overgrazing.

Poaching was a major issue in the park in the 1970s and 1980s, but now Gorumara is one of the parks least threatened by poaching, with well-equipped rangers and with villagers benefiting from park visitors. However, grazing from fringe villages, and man-made brush fires are major issues at the park.

A recent issue at the park is the increasing number of train accidents involving elephants on railway lines near the park. Three elephants were killed in separate incidents on the same day in May 2006 in train mishaps. Indian Railways and park authorities are presently trying to address the problem. [1]

Park-specific information

Gorumara

A map of the park

Activities

Gorumara Jatra Proshad Arnab Dutta

Jatra Prasad Tower

The best way to watch wildlife at the park is to use powerful binoculars, with night vision facilities at night, from the numerous well-located watchtowers at the park. The watchtowers are:

  • Jatraprasad Watch Tower: Named after a legendary elephant
  • Rhino Observation Point: Watch tower in front of the Gorumara forest bungalow
  • Chandrachur Watch Tower (Old Khunia Watch Tower): Near the Murti forest bungalow
  • Chukchuki Bird-watching Point: Good for birding

There are no ranger-led or otherwise four-wheel drive vehicle or elephant-back forays into the jungle. Hiking is permitted on metalled roads, but is slightly unsafe considering the population of elephants, gaur and rhinoceros present in the park. The park is closed in the Monsoon season from 16 June to 15 September. The best time to visit Gorumara is from November to March.

One can also visit the adjoining forest villages to get acquainted with the lifestyle and culture of the villagers. A live show of the ethnic tribal dance can be seen every evening in Budhuram Forest Village.

One can visit the Lataguri Nature Interpretation Centre for an interpretive exhibit of the local natural history.

Lodging

Gorumara Forest Rest House Arnab Dutta

Rest House inside Forest

The park forest bungalow is an old wooden rustic cottage which has a watchtower overlooking the salt reservoir.

Accommodations are also available in River Wood Forest Retreats, a 4 star resort overlooking the Gorumara national park and Murti River www.riverwoodretreat.com and at Gorumara Elephant Camp at Dhupjhora. One can stay in newly constructed cottages in the Kalipur village at the fringe of Gorumara built by the State Forest Department.

Approach

  • Nearest airport: Bagdogra, Jalpaiguri district, West Bengal about 80 km away
  • Nearest railhead: Broad gauge: Chalsa, Jalpaiguri district, West Bengal is 18 km. from the park. Important railstations: New Jalpaiguri, New Alipurduar
  • Nearest highway: NH 31 between Siliguri and Guwahati passes over Lataguri, the entrance to the park.
  • Nearest town: The town of Lataguri is 8 km from the park’s entrance.
  • Nearest city: The city of Jalpaiguri is 52 km to the South of the park.

References

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