Monday, April 6, 2009

Sariska National Park (Rajasthan)

The Sariska Tiger Reserve is one of the most famous national parks in India located in the Alwar district of the state of Rajasthan. This area was a hunting preserve of the erstwhile Alwar state and it was was declared a wildlife reserve in 1955. In 1978, it was given the status of a tiger reserve making it a part of India's Project Tiger scheme. The present area of the park is 866 km. The park is situated 107 km from Jaipur and 200 km from Delhi.

Some of the wildlife found in the Sariska Tiger Reserve include the Bengal tiger, leopard, jungle cat, caracal, striped hyena, golden jackal, chital, sambhar, nilgai, chinkara, four-horned antelope 'chousingha', wild boar, hare, hanuman langur, and plenty of bird species and reptiles. The reserve's tiger population disappeared in 2005. However, the relocation programme started in 2008.

The reserve is also the location of several sites of historical importance such as the Nilkanth temples from the 9th and 10th centuries built by Badgujars. Neelkanth or Rajor Garh was the capital of Badgujars. The 17th-century Kankwadi fort, originally built by Jai Singh II, is located near the centre of the park. The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb briefly imprisoned there his brother Dara Shikoh in the struggle for succession of the throne. Pandupol in the hills in the centre of the reserve is believed to be one of the retreats of Pandava. Hanuman temple in Pandupol is a favourite pilgrimage site which is the source of problems to wildlife especially due to heavy traffic. Tal Briksh to the north is special by its warm water spring. Bhartrihari, not far from the Sariska village, is crowded by pilgrims. The ruler of Ujjain, Raja Bhartrihari meditated at this place. The area also has buildings associated with the kings of Alwar such as the Sariska Palace, which was used as a royal hunting lodge of Maharaja Jai Singh.

In 2004, there were strong and persistent reports that no tigers were being sighted in Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan. It was not only that tigers were not being seen but also and more alarmingly, there were no indirect evidence of tiger’s presence (such as pugmarks, scratch marks on trees etc.) being found. The Rajasthan Forest Department took the stand that "the tigers had temporarily migrated outside the reserve and would be back after the rains". The Project Tiger, now National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), backed this assumption. There were some 15 tigers in the last years before. In January 2005, journalist Jay Mazoomdaar broke the news that there were no tigers left in Sariska. Soon the Rajasthan Forest Department and the Project Tiger Directorate declared an "emergency tiger census" in Sariska and the Central Bureau of Investigation, India's premier intelligence agency, conducted a probe. After a two month exercise they finally declared that Sariska indeed did not have any tigers left. Poaching was blamed to be one of the major reasons for the disappearance of tiger.