Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park
Natural Nepal Asia And The Pacific Chitwan District Of The Narayani Zone

Royal Chitwan National Park lies in the lowlands or Inner Terai of southern central Nepal on the international border with India. The park covers 932 km2 of subtropical lowland, wedged between two east-west river valleys at the base of the Siwalik range of the outer Himalayas.

Chitwan is dominated by almost monotypic stands of sal forest which occupy 60% of the total area and is a remnant of the lowland Terai forest which once stretched across the foothills of the Himalayas through India and Nepal. Riverine forest and grasslands form a mosaic along the river banks are maintained by seasonal flooding. On the hills are pines and scattered palms, and moister slopes support bamboos.

Chitwan is situated in a river valley basin or dun, along the flood plains of the Rapti, Reu and Narayani rivers. The Narayani is also called the Gandaki and is the third-largest river in Nepal. It originates in the high Himalaya and, drains into the Bay of Bengal. The Siwaliks show a distinctive fault pattern that has produced steep cliffs on the south-facing slopes, where vegetation cover is poorer than the northern slopes. The flood plains comprise a series of ascending alluvial terraces laid down by the rivers and subsequently raised by Himalayan uplift. The terraces are composed of layers of boulders and gravels set in a fine silty matrix.

The climax vegetation of the Inner Terai is sal forest, which covers some 60% of the park. However, floods, fires and riverine erosion combine to make a continually changing mosaic of grasslands and riverine forests in various stages of succession. Purest stands of sal occur on better drained ground such as the lowlands around Kasra in the centre of the park. Elsewhere, sal is intermingled with chir pine along the southern face of the Churia Hills and with tree species. Creepers are common. The under-storey is scant with the exception of grasses.

The park contains the last Nepalese population (estimated at 400) of the endangered great one-horned Asian rhinoceros which is the second largest concentration of this species to occur after Kaziranga National Park in India. Royal Chitwan is also one of the last strongholds of the Royal Bengal tiger. Other threatened mammals occurring in the park include leopard, wild dog, sloth bear and gaur. Other mammals include sambar, chital, hog deer, barking deer, wild pig, monkeys, otter, porcupine, yellow-throated marten, civet, fishing cat, jungle cat, jackal, striped hyena and Indian fox. Aquatic species include the gangetic dolphin, the mugger crocodile and the endangered gharial.

Prior to its re-introduction to Royal Bardia National Park in 1986, the park contained the last Nepalese population of the Indian rhinoceros. Tiger is present and has been the subject of a long-term study begun in 1974. Over 350 bird species are reported. Himalayan grey-headed fishing eagle and white-back vulture. Ruddy shelduck and bar-headed goose winter on the rivers. The threatened Indian python also occurs within the park, and some 99 fish species inhabit the rivers and oxbow lakes.