8 Must-Visit Biosphere Reserves In India For Wildlife Enthusiasts

Did you know that India has 18 biosphere reserves out of which 11 are a part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, recognised globally as important areas of biodiversity?
The forests of Kanchengdzonga National Park, Sikkim
The forests of Kanchengdzonga National Park, Sikkim

Biosphere reserves are sites established by countries and recognized under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program to promote sustainable development combining protected areas with zones where sustainable development is fostered. These areas promote solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. They are learning areas for sustainable development under diverse ecological, social and economic contexts, touching the lives of more than 250 million people. There are currently 738 biosphere reserves in 134 countries, including 22 transboundary sites, that belong to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

What Are Biosphere Reserves?

India has 18 biosphere reserves out of which 11 are a part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, recognised globally as important areas of biodiversity. But what exactly are Biosphere Reserves and how are they different from our national parks and wildlife sanctuaries? Biosphere Reserves are areas of biodiversity where not only flora and fauna, but human settlements that are closely dependent on the nature for their survival, are protected. In short, it's a natural habitat where national parks or wildlife sanctuaries along with the buffer zones are protected. In India, we have 18 such Biosphere Reserves and exploring them go beyond just exploring the national parks they host. Listed below are some prominent ones.

Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve

Inscribed as a UNESCO biosphere reserve (BR) in 2012, it is considered one of the less developed and thus least disturbed ecologically diverse landscapes in central India. Spread over the contiguous states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, its topography ranges from hills to shallow valleys and plains. Apart from containing endemic and rare floral species, it is home to 67 threatened faunal species (according to IUCN list, 2001), including four-horned Indian antelope, Indian wild dog, Asian White-backed Vulture, etc.

Seshachalam Hills Biosphere Reserve

Seshachalam comprises Sri Venkateswara National Park and Idupulapaya. The region is popular with birders. The globally threatened yellow-throated bulbul can be seen here. About 178 species of birds are found here out of which pompadour green pigeon and oriental white-backed vulture are some of the most sought after ones. Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Blue-faced Malkoha, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Indian Scimitar-Babbler and Loten's Sunbird, can also be seen here, to name some more.

Simlipal Biosphere Reserve is situated in the Keonjhar district of northeast Odisha
Simlipal Biosphere Reserve is situated in the Keonjhar district of northeast OdishaOdisha Lifestyle

Simlipal Biosphere Reserve

An important elephant reserve, Simlipal Biosphere Reserve encompasses the Simlipal National Park, Simlipal Tiger Reserve, Hadgarh Wildlife Sanctuary and Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary. Comprising a hilly tract of dense forests spread over 2,750 sq km, Simlipal National Park and Tiger Reserve is set in the northern part of Odisha. The forest probably derives its name from the Simul tree, which is known for its red flowers. There are several mid-range mountain peaks here such as Khairiburu (3,685 ft) and Meghasani (3,800 ft). Seven major rivers and their tributaries flow through these forests, some rich with crocodiles and mahseer. The park is home to tigers, elephants and leopards, but tiger sightings are rare in the area open to tourists. Situated in the Keonjhar district of northeast Odisha, the verdant Hadagarh Wildlife Sanctuary, spread over an area of 191.06sq km, is linked to the Similipal Tiger Reserve and Kuladiha Wildlife Sanctuary nearby. Its location in the catchment area of the Salandi River and numerous streams, and the presence of the Hadagarh Reservoir, make it an important wetland area.

Dihang-Dibang Biosphere Reserve

The Mouling National Park and the Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary are both a part of Dihang-Dibang Biosphere Reserve. The natural vegetation of this area is what makes this so special, a continuous chain of tropical to mountain tundra forest. Wildlife enthusiats love this area for its rare mammals like the Mishmi takin, red goral, , musk deer, red panda, Asiatic black bear, Gongshan muntjac, Mechuka giant flying squirrel and Mishmi giant flying squirrel. Birders will love the rare Scalter's monal and Blyth's tragopan.

Nokrek Biosphere Reserve

Home to the Nokrek National Park, Nokrek Biosphere Reserve is an important biodiversity hotspot. Nokrek is one of the last remaining homes of the elusive red panda a safe habitat for the rare stump-tailed macaque, pig-tailed macaque and hoolock gibbons. It doesn't come as a surprise that Nokrek is also an Important Bird Area.

Kanchengdzonga Biosphere Reserve

Also a UNESCO World Heritage site, Kanchengdzonga Biosphere Reserve is home to Lepcha tribal communities. The reserve's buffer zone consists of Tholung Monastery, one of the most important and sacred monasteries in sikkim. The reserve is a protected home to the elusive snow leopard, musk deer, Himalayan tahr, Asiatic wild dog, sloth bear, civet, Himalayan black bear, red panda, Tibetan wild ass, Himalayan blue sheep, serow, goral and takin.

Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve

The reserve has made it to UNESCO's list for its 2,000 types of medicinal plants, rare and endangered ones included. It is also home to the the Kanikaran tribe, one of the world's oldest surviving tribes.

Wild ass at the Little Rann of Kutch
Wild ass at the Little Rann of KutchWikimedia Commons

Kutch Biosphere Reserve

The region mainly comprises of Great Rann of Kutch and Little Rann of Kutch, covering the Kutch Desert Sanctuary in Great Rann of Kutch and Wild Ass Sanctuary in the Little Rann of Kutch. It is an important habitat for the near threatened Indian wild ass.

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