Royal Suklaphant Wildlife Reserve
The Royal Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve (28°49’-28°57’; 80°07’-80°15’E) lies in the extreme south west of the Terai and covers an area of. 305 sq km (including extension area) and ranges in altitude from 90-270 m. The vegetation cover within the reserve has been estimated as approximately two-third forest and one-third grassland (Balson, 1976). Of these, the Suklaphanta grassland is probably the largest patch of grassland of Nepal, occupying an area of 54 sq km. Twenty-six species of mammal have been recorded (Schaaf, 1978a, Bell, 1987), including a population of 1,710-2,250 swamp deer. The reserve also holds Nepal’s largest breeding population of Bengal floricans and hispid hare.
The Royal Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve is situated in the southern part of Far-West Nepal in Kanchanpur District. The reserve lies between 80o 25′ east longitude and 28o 35′ north latitude.
The reserve had been a famous hunting area for many years and was declared a Royal Hunting Reserve in 1969. The reserve was gazetted in 1973 as Royal Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve. It began as an area of 155 sq. km, today the reserve covers an area of 305 sq. m after completion of an extension.
The riverine flood plain of the reserve comprises of hill wash and alluvial deposits. Sal (Shorea robusta) is the dominant tree species. Extensive grasslands (locally called phanta) provide an ideal habitat for swamp deer (Cervus duvauceli). The species is endangered and there is a population of about 2000 in the reserve.
Predominant sal (Shorea robusta) forest is associated with asna (Terminalia alata), semal (Bombax ceiba), and karma (Adina Cordifolia). Khair, (Acacia catechu) and sissoo (Dolbergia sisso) forest is found along the riverside. The main grass species of the phantas are Imperata cylindrica and Saccharum heteropogon that are extensively used by the local people for thatching. The reserve provides prime habitat form swamp deer (Cervus duvauceli). An estimated population of 2000 to 2500 is found in the reserve. Other wild animals in the reserve are wild elephant (Elephas maximus), tiger (Panthera tigris), hispid hare (Caprolagus hispidus), blue bull (Boselaphus tragocamelus), leopard (Panthera pardus), chital (Zxis axis), hog deer (Zxis porcinus), and wild boar (Sus scrofa).
A total 268 species of birds has been recorded in the reserve. Many grassland birds along with the rare Bengal florican are seen in the phantasm. Marsh mugger crocodile, Indian python, monitor lizard and snakes like cobra, krait, and rat snake are recorded in the reserve. The extensive open grasslands of Suklaphanta are worth visiting for a breathtaking view of the largest herd of swamp deer in the world and other grassland birds including Bengal florican. Wetlands such as Ranital, Sikarital and others in the extension area like Kalikitch Lake, Lalpanital and Taratal, support a healthy population of many kinds of waterfowl, reptiles and other wildlife. Ranital, 18 km. from the reserve HQ., is a beautiful lake for viewing waterfowl, with machans (viewing towers).
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