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Posted at: Mar 18, 2018, 1:01 AM; last updated: Mar 18, 2018, 1:01 AM (IST)

World inside the nests

Home to several endangered and vulnerable species, Suhaildev Wildlife Sanctuary is a birdwatcher’s paradise
World inside  the nests
Nature’s caretakers: While population of vultures is on the decline, in Suhaildev these are found in abundance. Himalayan griffon, Eurasian griffon, white-backed vulture and cinereous vulture can be spotted here

Rashmi Gopal Rao

The largest and most populous state of India, Uttar Pradesh, is also known for its unique topography and heterogeneous landscape. The northern region of the state is popular for the Terai region that lies just below the Shivaliks. It is known for its thick forests, wetlands, marshes and grasslands covered with the typically long elephant grass. The Terai Arc landscape is, in fact, one of the most significant conservation terrains. It provides the ideal habitat for several threatened and endangered wildlife species. 

A gem in the Terai Arc

Nestled in this globally important ecoregion is the Suhaildev Wildlife Sanctuary, spread in the Shrawasti and Balrampur districts of Uttar Pradesh.  An integral part of the Terai Arc,  Suhaildev lies on the Indo-Nepal border. Established in 1988, it covers an area of 452 sq km with a buffer zone of 220 sq km. With sheesham, kher, jigna, gho and jamun trees in abundance, the vegetation of this region is both diverse and rich, giving rise to a kaleidoscope of habitats.  This is reflected in the faunal diversity of the region as the sanctuary boasts of wild animals like cheetal, leopard, bear, wolf, sambar and a host of local and migratory birds.

Cradling avifauna

A recent study by The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) revealed that the sanctuary is a haven for ornithologists and wildlife enthusiasts. According to its report released in 2015, the region is home to over 280 species of birds, out of which at least 26 are threatened. Endangered species like the yellow-breasted bunting and Eygptian vulture as well as vulnerable species like the Sarus crane, woolly-neck stork and great slaty woodpecker find their homes here. 

Vultures are a key component in maintaining healthy ecosystems and their numbers are dwindling world over, but here they are found in abundance. A safari into the forest will treat you to multiple sightings of the Himalayan griffon, Eurasian griffon, white-backed vulture and cinereous vulture. Their role in cleaning up carcasses of animals and maintaining ecological balance can hardly be overemphasised. Threatened species like the black-necked stork, river lapwing and lesser fish eagle are also inhabitants of the sanctuary.

Scope for ecotourism

Suhaildev has been declared an Important Bird Area (IBA), a reason that ecotourism is being promoted. A community-based and multi-stakeholder approach is being adopted to boost tourist in flow. Collective participation of the forest department, district administration, panchayati raj institutions and most importantly the local communities or the forest fringe dwellers will further promote the cause. Efforts are on to educate and empower villagers with a view to generate employment as well as conserve the forest. Local personnel are being trained to be forest guides, and youngsters are being sensitised towards the conservation needs of the sanctuary.  

There are also plans to showcase the native art and crafts of the Tharu community, an added tourist attraction.  The sanctuary is also situated in proximity to Shrawasti, an important Buddhist circuit. While there are plans to increase accommodation options, there are six forest rest houses in Sohelwa, Pipra, Nandmahra, Janakpur, Jarwa and Beerpur. These are currently open for tourists with prior approval from the Divisional Forest Office at Balrampur. 

Try unwinding with feathered friends around, it’s worth it.  

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