For all one’s inclination to believe that Rajasthan is a desert. It is difficult to ignore the fact that the region, in fact, has a varied topography, and includes from semi-arid, desert-like conditions to among the oldest mountains in the world, and lush, water-filled valleys. No wonder too that its wildlife is so rich in variety, including from the tiger and leopard to endless varieties of deer, rhesus monkeys, reptiles including the python, and a profusion of bird-life that includes water-birds.
The Thar Desert, also referred to as the Great Indian Desert, fall for part within the state, though parts of it do stretch into other states such as Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana, and this is what gives Rajasthan its unique topographical character. Unlike the typical desert it does not have oasis, palms or cacti, and is densely populated. Sand dunes characterize it, just as much as saline depressions and lakes.
Another distinguishing natural feature is Rajasthan is the Aravalli mountain chain, often referred to as hills because the height is rarely beyond a thousand metres. The folds of the Aravallis were used successfully by the Rajput princes to establish their citadels, but the mountains are among the oldest in the world. Since the Aravallis tended to be heavily forested, they became a natural refuge for birds and animals. Even though human degradation of the environment has led to deforestation, in areas where the forests are still thick, the reserves continue to offer sanctuary to their original, resident and migrant species.
Major National Parks & Sanctuaries of Rajasthan
Keoladeo Ghana National Park
Ranthambhore National Park
Sariska Tiger Reserve
Other Sanctuaries – Rajasthan has a large number of sanctuaries that are smaller, more inaccessible or less well known than its more popular counterparts. Some of these are listed below.
Bhensrodgarh – Close to Kota (53 km), it consists of scrub and dry deciduous forest and is home to leopard, sloth bear and chinkara.
Darrah – Once the hunting preserve for the royal family of Kota, this sanctuary, 50km from Kota, is home to sloth bears, chinkaras, the leopard and the wolf.
Jaisamand – Located on the fringes of a vast man-made lake of the same name, the small sanctuary is picturesque and houses leopard, wild boar and a variety of deer, while its waters are home to population of crocodiles, 50km from Udaipur.
Kumbalgarh – A large sanctuary in the Aravallis, 120 km from Udaipur, it has a formidable collection of wildlife that includes leopards and sloth bear, a variety of deer including the chousinga of four-horned antelope, and the ratel as well as the flying squirrel.
Mount Abu Sanctuary – Located on fringes of the town of the same name, this small sanctuary is thickly forested. Wildlife includes leopard, chinkara, sloth bear, sambhar and wild boar. The slopes of the hills provide some of the state’s most interesting topography, especially since the height of this hill station keeps it cool even in the summer months.
Chambal – Just beyond Kota, along the banks of the river Chambal all the way to its confluence with the Jamuna, this is where the waters are rich with gharial, crocodiles for which it is breeding centre. Other wildlife includes caracal, wolf, blackbuck and chinkara.
Sitamata – In forests of bamboo and dry deciduous vegetation, 108 km from Udaipur, this forested sanctuary provides rich foraging pastures for a variety of deer that include the chousinga, and for caracal, wild boar, pangolin and leopard.
Talchappar – A very small sanctuary, 210 km from Jaipur and in the Shekhawati region, this is home to a large population of graceful blackbuck. Desert fox and desert cat can also be spotted along with typical avifauna such as partridge and sand grouse.