There is something different about jungles where you know elephants roam wild. The feeling has a lot to do with awe, but it goes beyond that. There is something reassuringly eternal about stepping into circumstances that prevailed during the Paleocene Age, when mammals first began to fill niches left by dying dinosaurs. One such mammalian chain that profited was the Proboscidae, after the Latin proboscis, which means nose. Bandipur is elephant country. The Bandipur forests were once the Mysore Maharaja's personal game preserve. Protection began in the early part of the century. It is one of the few reserves that has survived and flourished. Close to other sanctuaries like Mudumalai, Wynaad and Nagarahole, Bandipur maintains its own distinctive identity.
It was brought under Project Tiger in 1973. It has quietly survived the ill effects of the Kabini River Valley Project and outbreaks of rinderpest that almost completely destroyed the local gaur population. A low profile and careful management has sustained this rich land that continues to flourish with diverse vegetation, thriving animal life and a prolific insect and bird population.
Bandipur Tiger Reserve, situated in the Mysore district of Karnataka, lies adjacent to Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu and Wynaad in Kerala. The terrain is punctuated with hills and small hillocks. The normal topography consists of an elevation of about 850 m throughout the region. The Gopalaswamy hill (1,454.5 m) is one of the highest peaks and Kannegals at 680m is the lowest. Soil texture ranges from the clayey, moist variety in the west to rocky barren land in the east. The Nugu in the centre, Moyar towards the south and the Kabini between Bandipur and Nagarahole are the rivers that feed this area perennially. Numerous natural and artificial pools are found in Bandipur. Besides the natural salt licks, the pools also contain salt and minerals beneficial to animals.
The 865 sq km area that comprises the Bandipur Reserve was once the Mysore Maharaja's private hunting ground. After the Mysore Game and Forest Preservation Regulation Act of 1931, 90 sq km was designated as a game sanctuary. In 1941, it became part of the 'Venugopal Wildlife Park', a larger national park, with an area of 800 sq km that also encompassed some areas of Mudumalai, Nagarahole and Wynaad. The park was notified under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. In 1973, the heart of Venugopal National Park that constituted Bandipur was recognised as Bandipur National Park and it became one of the 15 sanctuaries brought under the umbrella of Project Tiger.
Animals that you can see :
Most famous for its elephants and tigers, Bandipur is also known for its large gaur and chital populations. Elephants are found here, though most are migrant, not residents. The forests of Mudumalai seem to be a more preferred long-term home. From April to November, elephants are generally within the sanctuary and can be seen bathing in the forest lakes. They roam vast areas to feed and browse almost continuously through the day. In summer the availability of bamboo, tall grasses and water is better in Mudumalai, which is why they come here. You can easily spot them at waterholes.
The wild boar can be seen in clearings or rooting near water bodies. Large herds of gaur can be seen grazing in forest clearings. According to naturalists only the fit lived through a serious rinderpest outbreak in 1968 and therefore only the best genes have survived. The bonnet monkey and the common langur are found in troops. Jackals are not found in the tourism zone of the reserve but dhole (wild dog) packs are common. Sambar and chital with their magnificent antlers, comprise the deer population that is the prey of the dhole and the tiger. You can spot sambar near water bodies though sightings in the dry forest are also possible.
Tigers in Bandipur are protected under Project Tiger. The number of tigers in 1972 was a pitiful 11, but has grown to five times this figure. Nevertheless, tigers are rarely seen and leopards even less so. The porcupine, the black-naped hare and giant squirrels add to the assortment of smaller mammals. Muntjac, mouse deer and droves of wild boar are seen frequently. Tortoise flourish in ponds and tanks throughout the reserve.
You may also be able to spot pythons, the common monitor and other snakes in the forests. Several insects and arachnids are abundant just before and soon after the rains, making Bandipur a rare treat for entomologists.