The Chitwan National Park (CNP) is a world heritage property, and it also contains a Ramsar Site – Beeshazari Tal in its buffer zone. Chitwan National Park is situated in south central Nepal in the sub-tropical lowlands of the inner terai of Chitwan, Makawanpur, Parsa and Nawalparasi districts. It lies between 27°16.56’- 27°42.14’ Latitudes and 83°50.23’-84°46.25’ Longitudes. The altitude ranges from 110m to 850m above sea level. The park is bounded by the Rapti and Narayani River in the north, Parsa Wildlife Reserve in the east and Madi settlements and India border in the south. The physiography of the park consists of the Terai and Siwaliks. Three major rivers Narayani, Rapti and Reu, and their floodplains; and several lakes and pools are the major water sources of the park. A total of 68 species of mammals, 544 species of birds, 56 species of herpetofauna and 126 species of fish have been recorded in the park. The park is especially renowned for its protection of One Horned Rhinoceros, Royal Bengal Tiger and Gharial Crocodile.
Being the first protected area of Nepal, it has a long history of over three decades in park management and rich experiences in nature conservation. Chitwan was a big game area for the royal families, Rana rulers and their guests. The area comprising the Tikauli forest from Rapti River to the foothills of the Mahabharat extending over an area of 175 km2 was declared as Mahendra Deer Park in 1959. The area south of the Rapti River was demarcated as a Rhino Sanctuary in 1963. It was proclaimed as Royal Chitwan National Park with an area of 932 km2 in 1973. After the peoples’ revolution in 2006, the park’s name was changed to Chitwan National Park.
In recognition of its unique biological resources of outstanding universal value, UNESCO designated CNP as a World Heritage Site in 1984. In 1996, an area of 750 km2 surrounding the park was declared a buffer zone, which consists of forests and private lands including cultivated lands. The buffer zone contains a Ramsar Site – Beeshazari Lakes.
The park and the local people jointly initiate community development activities and manage natural resources in the buffer zone. The government of Nepal has made a provision of plowing back 30-50 percent of the park revenue for community development in the buffer zone. The park's headquarters is in Kasara. Close by the gharial and turtle conservation breeding centres have been established. In 2008, a vulture breeding centre was inaugurated aiming at holding up to 25 pairs of each of the two Gyps vultures’ species now critically endangered in Nepal - the Oriental white-backed vulture and the slender-billed vulture.
The park has a range of climatic seasons each offering unique experience. October through February with average temperature of 25C offers an enjoyable climate. From March to June temperatures can reach as high as 43*C. The hot humid days give way to the monsoon season that typically lasts from late June until September when rivers become flooded and most of the roads are virtually impassable. Mean annual rainfall of the park has been recorded 2150 mm.
In late January, local villagers are allowed to cut thatch grasses to meet their needs, which offer a better viewing of wildlife to visitors. Also, between September and November, and February and April, migratory birds join the residential birds and create spectacular bird watching opportunities. While the monsoon rains bring lush vegetation, most trees flower in late winter. The palash tree, known as the "flame of the forest", and silk cotton tree have spectacular crimson flowers that can be seen from a distance.
The Chitwan valley is characterized by tropical and subtropical forests. Roughly 70 percent of park vegetative cover is Sal (Shorea robusta) forest, a moist deciduous vegetation type of the terai region. The remaining vegetation types include grassland, riverine forest and Sal with Chir pine Pinus roxburghii. The later occurs at the top of the Churia range. The riverine forests consist of Khair (Acacia catechu), Sissoo (Dalbergia sisoo) and Simal (Bombax ceiba). The grasslands are mainly located in the floodplains of the rivers and form a diverse and complex community with over 50 different types of grasses including the elephant grass (Saccharum spp.), renowned for its immense height. It can grow up to 8 meter in height.
The wide range of vegetation types in the Chitwan National Park is haunt of more than 700 species of wildlife and a not yet fully surveyed number of butterfly, moth and insect species. A total of 68 species of mammals, 56 species of herpeto fauna and 126 species of fish have been recorded in the park. The park is especially renowned for its protection of One Horned Rhinoceros, Royal Bengal Tiger and Gharial Crocodile. The park harbours not only the world’s largest terrestrial mammal (wild elephant) but also the world’s smallest terrestrial mammal (pygmy shrew). A total of 544 species of birds has been recorded so far including 22 globally threatened species including critically endangered Bengal Florican, Slender-billed Vulture, White-rumped Vulture and Red-headed Vulture.
Chitwan National Park is home to 68 mammal species. The "king of the jungle" is the Bengal tiger. The alluvial floodplain habitat of the Terai is one of the best tiger habitats anywhere in the world. Since the establishment of Chitwan National Park the initially small population of about 25 individuals increased to 70–110 in 1980. In some years this population has declined due to poaching and floods. In a long-term study carried out from 1995–2002 tiger researchers identified a relative abundance of 82 breeding tigers and a density of 6 females per 100 km2 (39 sq mi). Information obtained from camera traps in 2010 and 2011 indicated that tiger density ranged between 4.44 and 6.35 individuals per 100 km2 (39 sq mi). They offset their temporal activity patterns to be much less active during the day when human activity peaked.
Leopards are most prevalent on the peripheries of the park. They co-exist with tigers, but being socially subordinate are not common in prime tiger habitat. In 1988, a clouded leopard was captured and radio-collared outside the protected area. It was released into the park, but did not stay there.
Chitwan is considered to have the highest population density of sloth bears with an estimated 200 to 250 individuals. Smooth-coated otters inhabit the numerous creeks and rivulets. Bengal foxes, spotted linsangs and honey badgers roam the jungle for prey. Striped hyenas prevail on the southern slopes of the Churia Hills. During a camera trapping survey in 2011, wild dogs were recorded in the southern and western parts of the park, as well as golden jackals, fishing cats, jungle cats, leopard cats, large and small Indian civets, Asian palm civets, crab-eating mongooses and yellow-throated martens.
Rhinoceros: since 1973 the population has recovered well and increased to 544 animals around the turn of the century. To ensure the survival of the endangered species in case of epidemics animals are translocated annually from Chitwan to the Bardia National Park and the Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve since 1986. However, the population has repeatedly been jeopardized by poaching: in 2002 alone, poachers killed 37 individuals in order to saw off and sell their valuable horns. Chitwan has the largest population of Indian rhinoceros in Nepal, estimated at 605 of 645 individuals in total in the country as of 2015. From time to time wild elephant bulls find their way from Valmiki National Park into the valleys of the park, apparently in search of elephant cows willing to mate.
Gaurs spend most of the year in the less accessible Churia Hills in the south of the national park. But when the bush fires ease off in springtime and lush grasses start growing up again, they descend into the grassland and riverine forests to graze and browse. The Chitwan population of the world's largest wild cattle species has increased from 188 to 368 animals in the years 1997 to 2016. Furthermore, 112 animals were counted in the adjacent Parsa Wildlife Reserve. The animals move freely between these parks.
Apart from numerous wild boars also sambar deer, red muntjac, hog deer and herds of chital inhabit the park. Four-horned antelopes reside predominantly in the hills. Rhesus monkeys, hanuman langurs, Indian pangolins, Indian porcupines, several species of flying squirrels, black-napped hares and endangered hispid hares are also present.
Every year dedicated bird watchers and conservationists survey bird species occurring all over the country. In 2006 they recorded 543 species in the Chitwan National Park, much more than in any other protected area in Nepal and about two-thirds of Nepal's globally threatened species. Additionally, 20 black-chinned yuhina, a pair of Gould's sunbird, a pair of blossom-headed parakeet and one slaty-breasted rail, an uncommon winter visitor, were sighted in spring 2008.
Especially the park's alluvial grasslands are important habitats for the critically endangered Bengal florican, the vulnerable lesser adjutant, grey-crowned prinia, swamp francolin and several species of grass warblers. In 2005 more than 200 slender-billed babblers were sighted in three different grassland types. The near threatened Oriental darter is a resident breeder around the many lakes, where egrets, bitterns, storks and kingfishers also abound. The park is one of the few known breeding sites of the globally threatened spotted eagle.Peafowl and jungle fowl scratch their living on the forest floor.
Apart from the resident birds about 160 migrating and vagrant species arrive in Chitwan in autumn from northern latitudes to spend the winter here, among them the greater spotted eagle, eastern imperial eagle and Pallas's fish-eagle. Common sightings include brahminy ducks and goosanders. Large flocks of bar-headed geese just rest for a few days in February on their way north.
As soon as the winter visitors have left in spring, the summer visitors arrive from southern latitudes. The calls of cuckoos herald the start of spring. The colourful Bengal pittas and several sunbird species are common breeding visitors during monsoon. Among the many flycatcher species the paradise flycatcher with his long undulating tail in flight is a spectacular sight.
The park offers interesting sites and activities. The display at the Visitor Center at Sauraha provides fascinating information on wildlife and conservation programs. The Women's User Group souvenir shop offers a variety of handicrafts and other local products for gifts and souvenirs.
Elephant safari provides an opportunity to get a closer view of the endangered One-horned Rhinoceros. One may also get a glimpse of the elusive Bengal tiger. The Elephant Breeding Center at Khorsor, Sauraha gives you information on domesticated elephant and the baby elephants born there.
The museum at Kasara, the park headquarters, has informative displays. Near the HQ, visitors can see Bikram Baba, a Hindu religious site of archival value. A short walk (1 km.) from the park HQ will take you to the Gharial Breeding Center, which is also home to the Marsh mugger and a number of turtles.
Inside the park, there are 7 resorts run by park concessionaires that can provide lodging and access to wildlife activities. Various resorts and lodges situated outside the park also offer a variety of services.
There are certain rules and regulations of the Chitwan National Park that the visitors of the park are supposed to follow in order to visit the park. The regulations of the park are outlined here below: