The Padmatala Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the hilly wilderness of the Eastern Ghats mountain range in the Phulbani district of Kandhamal, Odisha. Spread over a sprawling 192 square kilometers, the sanctuary derives its name from the lotus ponds or padmatala found within its territory. It was established in 1988 to provide protected habitat for endangered wildlife species native to the region such as elephants, tigers, and gaurs.
The sanctuary has a diverse terrain consisting of hills, valleys, streams, and mixed moist deciduous forests. This makes it home to varied flora and fauna. Conservation of the sanctuary is crucial as it houses several rare, endangered as well as vulnerable species and helps maintain the biodiversity of the Eastern Ghats region.
History of Padmatala Wildlife Sanctuary
The Padmatala Wildlife Sanctuary has an interesting history. The lush forests in which it is located have been inhabited by indigenous tribal communities for centuries. During the British rule, the area was designated as a reserve forest.
Over the years, concerns grew over dwindling wildlife and rampant poaching in the region. Finally, in 1988, the sanctuary was officially established to protect wildlife by providing them with a safe habitat free from human interference and development.
At the time of its establishment, the key animal species found here include Asian elephants, sloth bears, leopards, barking deer, sambar, and mouse deer among others. In subsequent years, concerted conservation efforts have focused on strengthening protection, improving habitat as well as community engagement.
More About Padmatala Wildlife Sanctuary
Padmatala is home to diverse flora and fauna, including many endangered species.
Elephants are the most significant animal found here. Large herds of about 26 elephants migrate through the sanctuary habitats regularly. Other important mammal species include leopards, jungle cats, hyenas, wild boars, barking deer, mouse deer, porcupines, and hares.
The sanctuary is also an important habitat for gaurs which are the Indian bison. Gaurs usually roam the hill slopes and grasslands. Other ungulates like sambar and spotted deer are also found.
Avian fauna includes racket-tailed drongos, hornbills, hill mynas, peacocks, jungle fowls and parakeets. Reptiles like cobras, kraits, vipers, and rat snakes also occur.
The sanctuary has semi-evergreen and moist deciduous forests. Sal, bamboo, jamun, and teak are the main tree species along with climbers, shrubs, and tall grasses. Rare orchids also grow here. Such rich vegetation supports diverse animal and bird life.
Various initiatives have been taken to conserve wildlife at the Padmatala Sanctuary:
- Protection from poaching – Anti-poaching camps and patrolling systems have been set up. Awareness drives target local communities.
- Anti-encroachment drives – Steps taken to detect and remove illegal settlements inside the sanctuary.
- Eco-development initiatives – Activities like soil conservation, grassland management, etc. These help improve habitat.
- Community involvement – Engagement initiatives educate locals on conservation. Provides them with livelihoods through tourism.
These interventions have strengthened wildlife and habitat protection at Padmatala. They have also created alternate incomes for locals previously dependent on the forest.
Late winter between November to February is the best time to visit when sightings are higher as animals frequent the waterholes.
Jeep safaris are available in the mornings and evenings when animal activity is maximum. Visitors must take permits and hire authorized guides only.
There is forest department accommodation near Chakapad reserve. Private hotels are also available in Phulbani. Simple amenities exist for refreshments, parking, etc.
Fees for entry, guide hire, vehicle entry, etc. apply as per standard norms. Foreigners need prior permission from authorities to visit any protected sanctuary in India.
While wildlife has revived at Padmatala due to conservation efforts, some threats continue to pose challenges:
- Occurrences of elephants or gaurs straying into fringe villages lead to loss of lives and crops for locals. Measures to restrict animal intrusion are being implemented.
- Pressure on habitat due to illegal tree felling and grazing within the protected zone. Strict vigilance and afforestation drives help curb this.
Overall, the Odisha Forest Department is collaborating well with local communities and NGOs to tackle these issues through sustainable solutions.
In conclusion, the Padmatala Wildlife Sanctuary is a crucial protected zone under the Similipal Tiger Reserve forest area. As home to endangered, vulnerable, and endemic wildlife of the Eastern Ghats it needs a conservation focus. With continued ecological restoration and community participation, the efforts taken so far can help secure the habitat and species thriving here for the future. Going forward more destination branding and regulated ecotourism plans can also raise awareness and aid progress for Padmatala.