Introduction

Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR) is one of the nature's virgin recesses in east India and is situated in the North West corner of the State of Bihar. The pristine forest and wilderness of VTR is an excellent example of Himalayan Terai landscape. VTR comprises of the Valmiki National Park and Valmiki Wildlife Sanctuary. The VTR forest area covers 901.07 sq.km which is 17.4% of the total geographical areas of the district West Champaran.

Total forest area comprises of about 901 sq.km., out of which expanse of Valmiki Wildlife Sanctuary is 880.78 sq. km. and spread of the National Park is about 335.64 sq. km. area. In north, the protected areas are bordered by Nepal while the Indian state Uttar Pradesh bounds the Wildlife Sanctuary from western side.

Administrative Structure

The Conservator of Forests-cum-Field Director exercises administrative control over the Valmiki Tiger Reserve which is constituted into two Forest Divisions viz. Valmiki Tiger Reserve Division-I and Division- II, that are under the control of two Divisional forest Officer-cum-Deputy Directors. VTR has 8 Ranges of which 3 ranges; Manguraha, Gobardhana & Raghia fall in Division-I and 5 Ranges; Harnatanr, Chiutaha, Ganauli, Valmikinagar & Madanpur fall in Division-II. Valmiki Tiger Reserve Foundation was established in year 2010. The aim of Foundation is to help Reserve management in biodiversity conservation and better functioning of Eco Development Committees.

History

Prior to independence, the Valmiki forests were owned by two erstwhile Zamindari Estates - Bettiah Raj and Ramnagar Raj. The forests were managed for timber production. The state government took over the management of Ramnagar Raj forests in 1950 and the Bettiah Raj forests in 1953 and 1954 under the Bihar Private Protected Forests Act (1947). Subsequently these forests got the status of "Protected Forest" by notification vide no C/PF-6036/52-87 R dated 6th January 1953 covering 909.86 sq.km. Out of these 909.86 sq. km., 8.73 sq. km. of Udaipur forest is far away from main forest of Valmiki and later declared as "Udaipur Wildlife Sanctuary". From early sixties to 1974, the forests were under the management of the State Forest Department. The area was subjected to large scale afforestation with teak, semal, shisham and bamboo. Subsequently, in 1974, the entire forests were handed over to the Bihar State Forest Development Corporation on lease, which managed the forests with commercial objectives.

A fraction of the forest recognized as significant wildlife habitat was notified as "Valmiki Wildlife Sanctuary" vide notification no S.O. wildlife-12/78-2336, dated 4th May 1978 covering area of 462 sq. km. Later in year 1990 an area of 419 sq. km was declared as part of "Valmiki Wildlife Sanctuary" vide no S.O. 136 dated 6th March 1990 covering an aggregate area of 880.78 sq. km."Valmiki National Park" was notified out of the sanctuary vide notification no. S.O. 989 dated 5th December 1990 covering an area of 335.64 sq. km.

The forests were taken back from the State Forest Development Corporation in 1994 and Valmiki Tiger Reserve was constituted as 18th reserve under Project Tiger of Government of India, vide notification no. Vanyaprani 11/94-303-E/Va.Pa. dated 11th March 1994. Total area of Valmiki Tiger Reserve is 898.937 sq. km of which core comprises of 589.789 sq. km & buffer of 309.143 sq. km.

Conservation Significance

The VTR tract of India merges with the Chitwan National Park and Parsa Wildlife Reserve in Nepal which is jointly known as Valmiki-Chitwan-Parsa tiger Conservation Unit. The total area of this trans-boundary wildlife Zone is 3549 sq km. The Valmiki Protected area in India and Chitwan National Park & Parsa Wildlife Reserve in Nepal has been assessed as level-1 tiger Conservation Unit (TCU) by US-WWF due to adequate core areas and low poaching pressure. In this landscape there is a fair chance of survival of Tigers in long term. To the west is Sohagibarwa Wildlife Sanctuary of Uttar Pradesh which has the potential of becoming buffer of Valmiki Tiger Reserve.

Landscape

The landscape of VTR encompasses foothill ranges of Himalayan Siwaliks with mosaic of the cliffs, ridges, gorges, hills, streams and valleys; dense forests, open woodlands, grasslands, swamps and riverine fringes. Situated in Gangetic plains bio-geographic zone of the Country, the forest has combination of bhabhar and terai tracts. Boulder and pebble deposits by the Himalayan rivers in foothills characterize the bhabhar tract while the finer sediments deposits feature terai lands.

Flood plains of Gandak and Burhi Gandak and their tributaries.

Criss-crossing and meandering rivers, streams and rivulets, canals; swamps and grasslands features on these lands. River Gandak forms the western boundary of Valmiki wildlife sanctaury. It enters India at Valmikinagar, where two rivulets Sonha and Pachnad join it forming a holy confluence 'Triveni'. The river is called 'Narayani' in Nepal. Harha - Masan River system originates from the Valmiki Forests and forms Burhi Gandak River down south. River Pandai flows into Bihar (India) from Nepal in the eastern end of the Sanctuary and meets Masan. All these rivers with their precursor and tributaries namely Rohua, Kotrahia, Manor, Bhapsa, Koshil, Singha, Dhonghi, Ganguli, Dohram are full of youth and verve. Their cascades in wanton, and wayward playfulness while descending from hills, ridges and gorges are enchanting. Meeting the planes they slowly mature to serene grandeur.

Cultral Diversity

The Valmiki landscape harbors vivid socio - cultural diversity. 'Tharu', a scheduled tribe, is the dominant community in the landscape. There are several theories on colonization of this community in the Himalayan terai. It is said that the community migrated from Rajasthan to the Himalayan foothills some 400 years ago. Their prime occupation is agriculture and staple food is rice. They are non-vegetarian and like chicken, pork, snails and fish. Gents relish liquor locally prepared from jaggary. Tharus speak Bhojpuri and worship Hindu deities. Ramnavmi is their main festival. They also maintain socio-cultural relationship with the Tharus of Nepal. Their population is around 2.5 lakh.

The scheduled tribes other than Tharu in the Valmiki landscape are collectively called Dhangar - which means retained labourer in Oraon dialect. Dhangar comprises of four tribes: Oraon, Munda, Lohra and Bhuiya. The 'Dhangars' were brought to this area as agriculture laborer from the Chhotanagpur Hills. Each Dhangar tribe has its own dialect and they observe their traditional festivals. Currently their population is around 0.5 lakh. Communities other than the tribes are called 'Bajiyan'. They are outsiders and involved in agriculture as well as small business in the villages..