Sundarban – Flora Fauna and Avifauna
Sunderbans has been declared as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 1987. It is the world’s largest delta enclosed by thick mangrove forest and huge saline mud flats. It is also the world’s largest estuarine forest. A land consisting of 54 tiny islands, bisected and segmented by a number of tributaries of River Ganga, Sunderbans is spread throughout the area of 9630 sq. km. Way back in 1984, Sunderbans was hailed as a National Park and prior to that, during 1970s, it was known as Tiger Reserve.
Sunderbans is a house to large flora and fauna. It is also the breeding grounds of a variety of birds and many other unknown wildlife entities of the world. Till date, the largest number of wild tigers in the world is found in Sunderbans
The Riot of Colors…
Sundarbans derives its name from the mangrove or the “Sundari” trees which display around some sixty-four varieties. The mangrove vegetation can bear the estuarine conditions as well as saline inundations brought in by tides. During the period of April-May, the park goes into a riot of colors. The red blooms of Genwa (Excoecaria agallocha) find its match in the yellow blooms of Khalsi(Aegiceras corniculatum), making it one spectacular watch for the tourists. The red flowers with the crab-like shape called Kankra (Bruguiera gymnorrhiza) can also be seen during this time of the year. Other plants and trees that are found here are Dhundal or cannonball mangrove, Passur, Garjan, and Goran.
In general, the northern boundary of Sundarbans and the new depositions are occupied by Baen ( Avicennia marina , A. alba, A. officinalis ) and covered by foreshore Dhani grass (Oryza coarctata).
The southern and eastern parts include Kankra, Garjan (Rhizophora spp.), and thick patches of Sundari trees. Hental forest can be found in higher land with more compact soil.
The King and the Other Members of the Forest
Sunderbans Tiger Reserve hosts more than 400 tigers, one of the largest tiger populations anywhere in the world. The Royal Bengal tigers can swim across the saline waters, which sharpens their skill of hunting. Known for their man-eating tendencies these ferocious carnivores can be seen sunbathing during the month of November, December and January. Other wild animals found here are Chital Deer, Rhesus Macaque, Jungle Cat, Fishing Cat, Wild Boar, Common Grey Mongoose, Fox, Flying Fox, Pangolin, etc. It also has a wide variety of reptiles like the Oliver Ridley Sea Turtle, King Cobras, Rock Pythons, Water Monitors, River Terrapins, Sea Snakes, Dog Faced Water Snakes, Green Turtles, Estuarine Crocodiles, Chameleons, Salvator Lizards, Hard Shelled Batgun Terrapins, Russell’s Vipers, Mouse Ghekos, Curviers, Hawks Bill Turtles, Common Kraits, Chequered Killbacks, Rat Snakes, etc.
They Fly Free…
There are 248 species of birds that are found in Sundarbans and hence it is considered as a heaven for ornithologists having a barrage of birds like Pheasant Tailed Jacanas, Red Jungle Fowls, Open Billed Storks, Cotton Teals, Herring Gulls, Spotted Billed Pelicans, Swamp Partridges, Marsh Harriers, White Ibis, White Eyed Pochards, Black-Tailed Godwits, Peregrine Falcons, White Bellied Sea Eagles, Paradise Flycatchers, Night Herons, Gray Herons, Caspian Terns, Golden Plovers, Pintails, Common Snipes, etc.
In the estuarine waters thrive Star Fish, Saw Fish, Butter Fish, Silver Carp, Common Carp, Electric Rays, King Crabs, Red Fiddler Crabs, Hermit Crabs, Prawn, Gangetic Dolphins, Shrimp, Skipping Frog, Common Toad, Tree Frog, etc.