The Chitwan National Park, Nepal’s first national park lies at the foot of the Mahabharat range in the Inner Terai lowlands of Chitwan. Covering an area of 932 sq. this is the most well-preserved conservation area in all Asia. The park is rich in flora and fauna and has a fascinating variety of mammals and birds. The park preserves some of the last habitats for endangered species like the Greater one-horned rhinoceros and the Royal Bengal tiger. The reserve was designated a national park in 1973 and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
The park includes hilly areas of the Siwalik Range covered by deciduous sal forest. One-fifth of the park is made up of the floodplains of the Narayani, Rapti, and the Reu Rivers and is covered by dense tall elephant grass interspersed with riverine forests of silk cotton, acacia, and Sisam trees. This ecologically diverse area is the last remaining home in Nepal for more than 300 of the endangered Asian one-horned rhinoceros and harbors one of the largest populations of the elusive and rare Bengal tiger. Besides rhino and tiger, It has a particularly rich flora and fauna.
There are four species of deer, including the spotted Chittal, wild boar, rhesus monkey, leopard, sloth bear, grey langur monkey, wild dog, small wild cats, the white stockinged gaur (the world’s largest wild cattle) and many other smaller animals. The swampy areas and numerous oxbow lakes of Chitwan provide a home for marsh crocodiles. The Narayani river is found one of the few remaining populations of the rare and endangered fish-only eating gharial, or Gangetic crocodile. Here also is found one of the world’s four species of freshwater dolphins.
For the ornithologist and the amateur bird-watcher, the park offers excellent possibilities with more than 450 species recorded. Some of the resident specialties are several species of woodpeckers, hornbills, Bengal florican, and red-headed trogons. Winter birds such as waterfowl, Brahminy duck, pintails, and bareheaded geese, amongst many other cold weather visitors are drawn by the sanctuary of the park’s rivers. In the summer the forest is alive with nesting migrants such as the fabulous paradise flycatcher, the Indian Pitta, and parakeets.
At the foot of the Himalayas, Chitwan is one of the few remaining undisturbed vestiges of the ‘Terai’ region, which formerly extended over the foothills of India and Nepal. One of the last populations of single-horned Asiatic rhinoceros lives in the park, which is also one of the last refuges of the Bengal tiger.