The different habitat types of Corbett i.e. mountains, sal forests, chaurs, khair-sissoo forests, and rivers have their distinct assemblage of plants. More than 600 species of trees, shrubs, herbs, bamboos, grasses, climbers and ferns have been identified in the Park.
The most visible trees found in Corbett are sal, khair and sissoo (see Habitats and Ecosystems). Many other species that contribute to the diversity, are found scattered throughout the park.
is the only conifer of the Park and is found on ridge-tops like Chir Choti but comes quite low in Gajar Sot. The upper reaches near Kanda have Banj Oak (Quercus leucotrichophora) growing which is essentially a Himalayan species.
include Khajur or Date-palm (Phoenix sp.) that occurs in open areas. Wallachia densiflora is a rare palm characteristic of Eastern Himalayas but is found in Corbett near Sultan.
are found scattered throughout the lower areas while Tendu (Diospyros tomentosa) occurs in moist areas. Other major tree species are Bel (Aegle marmalos), Kusum (Schleichera oleosa), Mahua (Madhuca indica) and Bakli (Anogeissus latifolia).
lend colour to the forests in Corbett. The main ones are Kachnaar (Bauhinia variegata) with pink to white flowers, Semal (Bombax ceiba) with big red blooms, Dhak or Flame-of-the-forest (Butea monosperma) with bright orange flowers, Madaar or Indian Coral (Erythrinia indica) with scarlet red flowers and Amaltas (Cassia fistula) with bright yellow chandelier like blooms.
Some species of trees that do not occur naturally in the Park have been artificially planted in and around habitation. These include Teak (Tectona grandis), Eucalyptus, Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosaefolia), Silver Oak (Gravillea robusta) and Bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis), and can be seen in and around forest rest houses.
Flowers of HelicterisShrubs dominate the tree understorey and scrub areas. There are several species of Ber (Zizyphus sp.) in open areas and provide food and habitat to many birds and animals. Maror phali (Helicteres isora) is an easily noticeable shrub. Its fruits are in the form of twisted spiralling pods. Karaunda (Carissa sp.), with pinkish-white flowers and sour fruit, is found under sal. Hisar (Rubus ellipticus) has yellow, juicy, mulberry-like fruits that are savoured by animals.
Jhau (Tamarix dioica) is found along the Ramganga basin on sandy or rocky soil. Colebrookia oppsitifolia and Adhatoda vasica are found in nallahs.
In some parts of Corbett the vegetation is dominated by bamboo forest. The main species is Male Bamboo (Dendrocalamus strictus) having clustered stout stems and shining papery stem sheaths.
Bamboos follow a peculiar flowering process. All bamboos in a forest flower together at the same time once in several decades. After flowering, fruiting and dispersal of seeds, all individuals die together.
Herbs include many species of wildflowers belonging mostly to Pea and Aster families. They are most visible on grasslands or chaurs and on open areas.
Drymaria diandra is a spreading annual herb with heart shaped leaves and occurs in moist shady places. Bhilmora (Rumex hastatus) is a sour tasting herb used for making chutney. Other species encountered in Corbett are Euphorbia hirta, a hairy herb, Indigofera liniofolia with bright red flowers, Clover (Oxalis sp.) with three leaflets, Solanum sp. and Leonotis nepatafolia (orange flowers and spiky round fruits).
Corbett has over 70 grass speciesGrasses form the largest group of plant species in Corbett with more than 70 species recorded. They occupy different habitats, especially chauINR
They include Kansi (Saccharum sp.), Themeda arundinacea, Baib or Bhabar (Eulaliopsis binata), Narkul (Arundo donax), Tiger Grass (Thysanolaena maxima), Khus Khus (Vetiveria zizanioides), Cymbopogon flexuosus (a tufted grass with pleasant aromatic leaves), Aristida cyanantha (found amidst boulders), Neyraudia arundinacea (with light brown inflorescence) and Heteropagon contortus (Spear Grass with conspicuous sharp blades that adhere to clothes and penetrates skin).
Woody climbers found in the park are Milletia auriculata, Crypotepris buchanani, Porana paniculata (dense canopy with profuse white flowers), Clematis gouriana (shrubby twiner with tendril like branches) and Bauhinia vahlii (flat rusty hairy pods, large leaves used for making pattal)
Epiphytes are plants that grow above the ground on other plants, and derive nutrients and water from rain, the air, dust, etc. They are found on sal and other trees in the park.
They include Dendrophthoe falcata (scarlet red flowers), Scurrula cordifolia (hairy coating on shoots and leaves), Vanda testacea (orchid with flat keeled leaves and beautiful spike flowers), Cuscuta reflexa (or ‘Dodder’, with interlaced yellow cord like habit, growing on shrubs).
The semi aquatic species which inhabit marshy areas of Corbett include Polygonum, Veronica, Hypericum and Ranunculus etc.
Non-flowering plants include ferns, mosses and lichens. Ferns occur in cool shady moist areas along streams. They include Adiantum, Pteris, Ophioglossum reticulatum (Snake-tongued Fern which occurs below Sal), Equisetum (found growing on sandbanks along streams). Many kinds of fungi are found on rotting trunks and accumulating debris. These include mushrooms, brilliantly patterned toadstools, and puffballs. The presence of lichens symbolises good air and environment and many kinds of colourful lichens grow on mature tree trunks and boulders all over Corbett. Liverworts and mosses are found on moist trunks.
Corbett has one of the highest densities of tigeINR The tiger (Panthera tigris) is perhaps the most celebrated of the wild animals of India. It is symbolises the power of Nature and finds an important place in our culture, mythology and legends. It has been worshiped as the guardian and ruler of the forest.
Tigers are believed to have evolved in East Asia (China) about 2 million years ago. They then dispersed to other parts of Asia. There existed eight subspecies of tiger, out of which three have gone extinct. Today this perfect carnivore is a critically endangered species, though once it roamed freely in most of Asia. India is home to the largest population of wild tigers in the world. There are estimated to be only 5000 to 7500 tigers surviving in the world. Out of these, the subspecies found in the Indian subcontinent, the Bengal tiger has 3000 to 4500 surviving members, more than three-fourths of which are in India.
The terai-bhabar region, including Corbett, was once the best place to find tigers but this habitat has reduced tremendously due to development-induced land use changes.
The tiger has always had a close association Corbett National Park – earlier through the writings of Jim Corbett and other shikaris and later because of the launch of Project Tiger, India’s tiger conservation programme, initiated from the Park’s soil on 1st April 1973.
Tigers hunt deer (preferably sambar but also chital and barking deer) and wild boar. They choose the largest of the prey species since larger prey represents more energy for the effort spent. For this reason the sambar population density is believed to be a good indicator of the presence of tigeINR Occasionally, tigers will also attack young of elephants and take smaller species, including monkeys, birds, reptiles and fish.
Adult tigers are usually solitary, except for females with cubs. However, sometimes several are sometimes seen together. Generally, both female and male tigers maintain home ranges that do not overlap with the home range of another tiger of the same sex. Females have home ranges of approximately 20 sq. km while those of males are much larger, covering 60-100 sq. km. Male home ranges cover the territory of many smaller female home ranges. The male protects his territory and the females within it from competing males.
Among the large cats in India tigers have the greatest reputation as man-eateINR Several legendary man-eating tigers have been known, especially during the terai-bhabar region. Such tigers have been immortalised through the writings of Jim Corbett. For example, the Champawat tiger is said to have killed 434 people before Corbett finally succeeded in killing it. However, in recent times, with the huge decline in the numbers of tigers, attacks on humans have been relatively rare. Man-eating is usually the result of a tiger’s inability to catch usual prey when it is too old to hunt or if it has an injury.
The elephant, largest of the land mammals, has been an integral part of the history, mythology, tradition, culture and religion of India. There are three surviving species of elephants in the world, one in Asia and two in Africa. The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) is distributed in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Unlike the African species, Asian elephants have been domesticated for thousands of years and have been used in medieval warfare, for temples, and as a working animal.
A herd of wild elephants in a chaurThe Asian elephant was once found throughout south and southeast Asia but now it has been reduced to several scattered populations because of human activities like conversion of forest areas to farming, construction of dams and civil works like roads and canals. Apart from habitat constriction, these wide-ranging animals also face obstruction of their traditional migration routes. Poaching of elephants for ivory is another serious problem that elephants face.
Elephants are notable for their remarkable intelligence and a sharp memory. This is because elephants have the largest brains in the animal kingdom. Males have tusks and such elephants are commonly called “tuskers”. There are also some tuskless males, called “makhnas”. The trunk of an elephant is a most distinct and versatile organ and can be used for feeding and drinking, breathing, trumpeting, herding the young ones and sometimes even for fighting.
Asian elephants live in a variety of habitats. They prefer a combination of grassland, shrubbery, and forest. Elephants are strictly vegetarian and prefer grasses, leaves, stems of trees, vines, bamboos and shrubs. Sometimes they also enter fields in the villages located near forests and raid crops.
Owing to its large size, and high forage requirements elephants are constantly on the move, searching for food. They undertake long-distance migrations and follow the same seasonal migratory routes generation after generation. However, in recent times the migratory routes have been encroached upon by human activities which has seriously affected their movement.
Elephants are social and live in groups consisting of females and their young and are led by the eldest and most experienced female. Living in herds is useful for collective defence, better care and teaching of young ones and increased mating opportunities. Adult males usually travel alone and associate with female herds for mating.
Corbett Tiger Reserve has about 700 Asian elephants. They are part of the migratory population that also lives in Rajaji National Park. Earlier, there were much fewer elephants in Corbett but their population in the park has increased significantly in recent decades. Although, present throughout the Park, elephants are most easily sighted in Dhikala chaur, Phulai chaur, and near the Saddle Dam.
Corbett has four species of deer. They are the most frequently sighted large mammals in the Park. Chital, the commonest deer of CorbettChital (Axis axis) or Spotted deer is the commonest of deer species of Corbett. It is also the most beautiful, with characteristic white spots on its reddish-brown body. Only male chital have antlers that may grow up to 1 m length. These antlers are periodically shed and a new set developed every time.
Chital live in large herds and are usually seen in open grasslands. Grasses form the main food for chital but they also depend on fallen fruits, flowers and leaves from forested areas. They prefer to graze in short grasslands without much cover because in such areas they can watch out for predators like tigeINR Tree cover is also required as shelter and source of food. Chital are most active in early morning and evening and rest in cool places during the heat of the day. They give alarm calls to warn the herd when a potential threat or predator is sensed.
Chital are ecologically important because they form an important prey base for carnivores like leopards and tigeINR They also help in dispersal of plant seeds including grasses and also tree and shrub species like amla, ber, etc.
Hog deer in chaurPara or Hog Deer (Axis porcinus) is the rarest of Corbett’s deer. It is closely related to the chital but is smaller in size. Unlike most other deer, the hog deer is not given to leaping over obstacles but instead, it escapes its predators by crouching low, ducking under obstacles. Its limbs are short and its hind legs are longer than the fore legs. This anatomy raises its rump to a higher level than the shouldeINR
This species mostly inhabits grasslands, swampy areas and clearings and is usually nocturnal. Unlike chital, hog deer are solitary animals but sometimes feed in small groups. Hog deer face the threat of habitat destruction, especially draining of swampy areas and change in water regimes.
Sambar (Cervus unicolor) is the largest deer found in Corbett. Its body is largely a uniform greyish-brown in colour, except for the creamy white on the backsides and under-tail areas. Males have antlers up to 1 m long that are periodically shed and replaced. Male sambar also have dense manes on their necks.
Sambar is the largest deer of CorbettSambar are mostly found in dense forests with a gently sloping to steep topography. They are known to reach altitudes as high as 3,700 m. Sambar browse on leaves, berries, fallen fruit, leaves and tender bark of young trees, and also graze on grasses and sedges. These deer are mostly active solitary but may be found in small groups during the mating season.
The Leopard (Panthera pardus) is the other large cat found in Corbett. Compared to the tiger leopards are smaller, more graceful and have a long agile body that has rosettes instead of stripes. It also has the ability to limb trees. Leopards are quite versatile, adaptable to a variety of terrains as well as to a broad range of prey that includes everything from insects and rodents up to large ungulates. Leopards mostly hunt during twilight hours and at night. They also ambush their prey by jumping down from trees.
The great variety of habitat in Corbett is reflected in its impressive diversity in the bird life. Over 600 species, many of them rare and endangered, have been recorded in and around the park. these include nearly fifty kinds of birds of prey that provide a unique character to the avifauna. This inherent richness in bird life increases even further during winter with the arrival of numerous migrants – some, like osprey and ducks, coming all the way from East Africa, Europe and Central Asia. Winter also brings many Himalayan birds from higher regions who come to take refuge in Corbett to escape the extreme conditions in the mountains above. These include many flycatchers, great barbet and the wallcreeper.
Corbett is one of the best places to see gharialsCorbett has two of India’s three crocodilian species. It is considered to be one of the best spots to see the Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), one of the largest and most endangered crcodilians of the world. It is found only in the Indian subcontinent. It gets its name from the ‘ghara’ or pot like structure on the snout that is present only in males.
Corbett is home to many species of freshwater fish. The Ramganga, Palain, Sonanadi and Mandal rivers, provide vital habitat and breeding grounds for them because of moderate temperature, low gradient, presence of deep pools and boulders and gravel on stream beds, and negligible pollution. Fish form a fundamental link in the food chain for many key species like the gharial, otters, fish-eagles, kingfishers, ospreys, storks, fish-owls, egrets, darters and pelicans.
There are several species of snake in CorbettReptiles live in a great variety of habitats. But apart from the gharial and mugger the other reptiles of Corbett have not been studied in great detail. Several species of snakes have been reported from here, including the King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) and Indian Cobra (Naja naja). Indian Rock Pythons (Python molurus) are frequently sighted and there also exist several kinds of vipers, kraits and boas.