Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve
In the south west region of Nepal is a diverse protected area called the Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve, covering an area of three hundred and five square kilometers. Within this area are picturesque tropical wetlands, rolling grasslands, vital riverbeds and dense forests that provide much needed habitat for mammals, birds, insects and reptiles. The reserve borders on India, and the Syali River is the border between the reserve and its neighboring country. A corridor of the Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve also provides a safe passage for the animal migration that takes place seasonally, and sees hundreds of animals move towards the Sivalik Hills.
The area on which the reserve is located was once a popular hunting ground for the rulers and nobility of Nepal, leading to it becoming the Royal Hunting Reserve in the year 1969. But it became clear that the area was significant to the animal and bird populations of the country and in 1973 it was declared the Royal Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve. It was only a hundred and fifty-five square kilometers in size initially, but was extended in the 1980s , with a buffer zone being added to the reserve grounds in 2004.
The region has a subtropical monsoonal climate, meaning that the area does receive good rainfall each year, filling the rivers and lakes of the reserve. These lakes and rivers are home to approximately twenty-seven species of fish, as well as the rare Mugger crocodile. Other reptiles that are found in and around these water rich areas include the common krait, monitor lizard, Oriental ratsnake, Indian cobra and the Indian rock python. The lakes also attract a variety of bird life, as can be seen especially at Rani Tal, where storks, egrets, herons, kingfishers, water fowl and ducks all carve their survival from the food the lakes supply. Sukla Phunta Wildlife Reserve boasts a total of four hundred and twenty-three species of birds, and birds such as the Jerdon’s babbler, rufous-rumped grassbirds, swamp francolin, yellow-eyed babbler, Finn’s weaver, Hodgson’s bushchar and chestnut-capped babbler can also be seen.
Of course there are also a variety of mammals that share the habitat of the reserve, and of the forty-six species, at least eighteen species are under the protection of CITES, which includes the swamp deer, great one-horned rhinoceros, Bengal tigers, sloth bear, Asian elephant, Hispid hare and the Indian leopard. Due to the reserve being home to dangerous wild animals, guided tours in jeeps are available at the reserve.