Spice Route

Wildlife in Karnataka

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The flora and fauna of Karnataka is diverse and with forests making up for close to 20 percent of the state’s geographic area, there are many secrets to uncover.

Do you know that Karnataka has one of the highest populations of tigers in the country? Well it is not just tigers but a variety of animals and birds that you can see in this state. With a plethora of wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, forest reserves, bird sanctuaries and conservation centers, Karnataka is a potpourri of experiences when it comes to experiencing all things in the wild. We list the places that you must see if you are a lover of wildlife.

Anshi National Park

Extending about 340 sq km, the Anshi National Park is 60 km from Karwar in Uttara Karmataka and is adjoining the Dandeli wildlife sanctuary. A Project Tiger sanctuary, this is part of an eco-sensitive part of the Western Ghats and is also called the Kali Tiger Reserve. The forest here primarily has evergreen and semi-evergreen trees and is home to about 200 bird species including the Malabar pied hornbill, Ceylon frogmouth and great hornbill. The animals seen here include elephants, Indian leopard, leopard cat, bonnet macaque, slender loris, gaur, wild boar, sambar, dhole, sloth bear, Malabar giant squirrel and several species of snakes. You also have set treks that also serve as vantage points and you can see some stunning grasslands here.

Kabini Forest
Kabini Forest

Bandipur National Park

Among one of the most well-known national parks in the state the Bandipur National Park is located in Chamarajanagar district adjoining the Mudumalai National Park in Tamil Nadu, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala and the Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka. Located about 60 km from Mysore, this park was set by the Mysore Maharaja in 1931. Located on the foot of the Nilgiri Hills, this place is home to many tigers, Asian elephants, leopards, dhole, gaur and sloth bears. Being part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, the topography is a mix of tropical mixed deciduous foreststhat supports a large diversity of animal and bird life. There are close to 350 species of birds identified here and you can also see a vibrant reptile community including marsh crocodiles, Russell’s viper, Indian pond terrapin, common Indian bronze back, starred tortoise, common Indian monitor, Indian chameleon and more. The Nugu River here has several aquatic animals and the highest point is Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta that has superb views too.

Bannerghatta National Park

Bannerghatta National Park is located 22 km south of Bengaluru and is not to be confused with the biological park that houses a zoo and safaris in a manmade setup. Carved out of the National Park, the biological park is hme to severl species of butterflies as well. This national park here has deciduous forests and thorny shrubs as well as bamboos, Eucalyptus and more. This is where you can sight animals like the sambar, common langur, bonnet macaque, spotted deer, barking deer, Indian crested porcupine, Indian leopard, gaur, Indian elephant, golden jackal, fox and more.


Kudremukh National Park

Covering over 600 sq km, the Kudremukh National Park located 95 km from Chikmagalur is home to evergreen and semi-evergreen forests as well as Shola grasslands at elevations above 4593 feet. Known for its stunning natural vistas that include a range of continual mountains, deep ravines and steep cliffs, the Park is home to the Bengal tiger, Indian leopard, sloth bear, gaur, sambar, spotted deer, dhole, golden jackal, lion-tailed macaque, common langur, barking deer, Malabar giant squirrel, Indian crested porcupine and birds like the Malabar trogon, great hornbill, Malabar whistling thrush and imperial pigeon. It is well known for conserving the lion-tailed macaque is named after the eponymous peak that looks like the face of a horse. Perinneal streams from the rivers Tunga, Bhadra and Nethravathi have helped increase the bio diversity of this park.

Nagarahole National Park

Recently renamed as the Rajiv Gandhi National Park, Nagarahole means Snake River in Kannada is spread over area of about 575 sq km and adjoins the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary of Kerala. The Kabini dam divides the Nagarahole and Bandipur National Parks. The forest here has a large number of rosewood and teak trees that are home to the Indian elephant, chital or spotted deer, leopard cat, four horned antelope, flying fox, giant fruit bat, Bengal tiger, rusty spotted cat and birds like herons, ducks, kites, eagles, falcons, partridges, storks, egrets, quails, peafowl, owls, lapwings, sandpipers, pigeons, doves, parakeets, cuckoos, nightjars, swifts, kingfishers, bee-eaters, barbets, swallows, larks, woodpeckers, orioles and more. You can also see reptiles like the marsh crocodile., star tortoise, common Indian monitor lizard, geckos, spectacled cobra, Indian python  and  green whip snake here.

Kabini National Park/Wildlife Sanctuary

With its varied topography the Kabini National Park is home to 250 species of flowers and trees.. With the largest population of elephants, Kabini also has animals like leopard, panther, sambhar, spotted deer, chital and bisons. This sanctuary also offers a water safari on Government run boats and is on the bank of Kabini River.

Biligiriranga Swamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary

Located in the Chamarajanagar district over 540 sq km, BR hills as this is popularly known is home to the BRT sanctuary that has several species of mammals including elephants, sloth bear, gaur, tigers, leopards, barking deer and sambar as well as 215 species of birds. Located at the confluence of the Eastern and Western Ghats, the sanctuary is home to bio diversity of both ranges and is also a tiger reserve.

Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary

Located in between the districts of Chikamagaluru and Shimoga, this 492 sq km sanctuary has the tiger, leopard, elephant, gaur, slender loris and pangolin and birds like Malabar whistling thrush, paradise flycatcher and ruby-throated bulbul. As the Bhadra River flows through the forest, the moist and dry deciduous forest also houses Kallahathigiri which is the highest peak here at 1875 metres. The hills of Kemmannundi and Bababuden are within the sanctuary and the lush greenery set amidst the hill ranges is spectacular.


Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary

Located in Belgaum district this sanctuary is named after the 17th century Bhimgad Fort by Shivaji which is inside the forest valley. This forest is known for its Barapede caves said to be the only known breeding area of the highly endangered Wroughton’s free-tailed bat.

Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary

The Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary located in the Mandya, Chamarajanagar and Ramanagar districts is a protected area with dry deciduous trees. With the river Cauvery running through the sanctuary, there are animals like the common langur, bonnet macaque, elephant, wild boar, malabar giant squirrel, smooth-coated otter, leopard, dhole and grizzled giant squirrel are seen here. The river of course is home to the Mugger crocodile, snakes, Indian mud turtles and the famed mahseer fish. Kanakapura, Hanur, Cowdally and MM Hills wildlife ranges are part of the Cauvery Sanctuary and the reserve forests of Basavanabetta, Chilandavadi, Muggur, Chikkayalur and Mahadeswara are also part of this sanctuary.

Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary

Located in North Karnataka district with an area of475 sq km, the abundance of flora and fauna makes this one of the largest sanctuaries in Karnataka. This sanctuary houses the bison, jackal, langur, leopard, barking, spotted and mouse deer, sloth bear, tiger, gaur, elephant, wild dog, civet cat and giant flying squirrel along with many species of colorful birds. Apart from the wildlife safaris in jeeps, this is where you can experience coracle boat rides, treks, nature walks, bird watching and crocodile sighting trips. This is also an elephant reserve and also the best place for sighting the Great Indian Hornbill or Great Pied Hornbill and the Malabar Pied Hornbill. The elusive Black Panther can also be sighted here – if you are lucky.


Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary

Spread over 247 sq. km. in Udupi district this sanctuary has some unique flora and fauna amidst the evergreen, semi-evergreen and moist deciduous forest. This makes it home to the slender loris, lion-tailed macaque, wild pig, sambar, barking deer, otter, porcupine, chital as well as the endangered cane turtle. A climber species Coscinium fenestratum is unique to this place. Bordering the Sharavathi Valley Wildlife Sanctuary you can also experience camping and trekking activities here.

Bird sanctuaries

  • Adichunchunagiri Bird Sanctuary in Mandya district.
  • Attiveri Bird Sanctuary in Uttara Kannada.
  • Bankapura Peacock Sanctuary in Haveri district.
  • Bonal Bird Sanctuary in Yadgir district.
  • Ghataprabha Bird Sanctuary in Belgaum district.
  • Gudavi Bird Sanctuary in Shimoga district.
  • Kaggaladu Bird Sanctuary in Tumkur district.
  • Kokkare Bellur in Mandya district.
  • Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary in Mandya district.
  • Mandagadde Bird Sanctuary in Shimoga district.
  • Kaggaladu Heronry in Tumkur district.
  • Magadi Bird Sanctuary in Shirahatti Taluk.
  • Ramadevarabetta Vulture Sanctuary in Ramnagar

    Blue Jay
    Blue Jay

Other Wildlife Spots

  • Arabithittu Wildlife Sanctuary in Mysore district covering an area of over 13.5 sq km, this park has eucalyptus and sandalwood plantations and is home to animals like the spotted deer, fox and leopard and over 230 species of birds.
  • Adichunchanagiri Wildlife Sanctuary in Mandya district created mainly for the conservation of peacocks.
  • Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary in Kodagu is spread over 182 sq km, the evergreen forests topography is dominated by bamboos here.
  • Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary in Bellary district with an area of 56 sq km within the Bilikallu reserve forest, this sanctuary was created for the conservation of the Indian sloth bears.
  • Malai Mahadeshwara Wildlife Sanctuary in Chamarajanagar district, Kollegala taluk.
  • Melukote Temple Wildlife Sanctuary in Mandya district is home to an endangered species of flora called Cycas circinalis.
  • Nugu Wildlife Sanctuary in Mysore has an area of 30 sq. km. and the backwaters of Nugu dam forms part of the sanctuary.
  • Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary in Kodagu district spread over 103 sq. km. with thick evergreen and semi-evergreen forests as well as a shola-grassland habitat in the elevation.
  • Ranibennur Blackbuck Sanctuary in Haveri district is primarily a Eucalyptus forest and has been created for the conservation of blackbucks and is also the habitat of the endangered great Indian bustard.
  • Sharavathi Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Shimoga is spread over 431 sq. km. and is also home to snakes and birds like the racket-tailed drongo and blue-throated barbet.
  • Shettihalli Wildlife Sanctuary in Shimoga district is spread over 396 sq. km. with a buffer and tourism zones with dry and moist deciduous and semi-evergreen forests.
  • Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary in Udupi is spread over 88.4 sq. km.  and is home to tiger, leopard, lion-tailed macaque and spotted deer.
  • Talakaveri Wildlife Sanctuary in Kodagu district is spread over 105 sq. km. and is home to the clawless otter, striped-necked mongoose, tiger, mouse deer and elephant.

This story first appeared in the Oct 2018 issue of Spicejet’s Spice Route Magazine here:

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