Travel plans to Indian sanctuaries or national parks tend to revolve around places that are famed for their tiger populations. However, most visitors tend to forget that the country is home to several other species, most of whom find a mention on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) endangered or vulnerable lists as well. Now, Atula Gupta, founder of India’s Endangered and Asia editor-in-chief of Jeff Corwin Connect, recommends 10 spots to head to if you are looking to spot animals besides India’s favourite big cat.
Indian Bison (Gaur): Not to be confused with tame cattle, the Indian bison is a ferocious creature. Some good options for sighting them include Wayanad National Park in Kerala, Nagarahole National Park in Karnataka and the Mudumalai – Bandipur reserves. The ideal time to visit is between February and June.
Asian elephants: Named as the national heritage animal of India, herds are found in almost all popular sanctuaries in north and south India. However, the best places are the southern reserves, such as the Periyar National Park in Kerala. The best time to visit is from October to June.
Great Indian Bustard: One of the largest flying bird species found in the world today, the critically endangered species was once found across the grasslands of India and Pakistan. The Desert National Park, Rajasthan, from November to March, is a place to see these birds in fair numbers.
Indian one-horned rhino: The Kaziranga National Park in Assam is known for its rhino population. Visit it in September and October, or February and March. Other parks to see them are Orang National Park and Pobitora National Park in Assam, Jaldapara National Park in West Bengal and Dudhwa National Park in Uttar Pradesh.
Asiatic Lion: The Gir National Park in Gujarat is the only place in the world to see the Asiatic Lion in its natural habitat. Peak summer is good to spot them, so plan your trip between mid-October to June.
Snow Leopard: Hemis National Park lies in east Ladakh. Visit the area from November to March to watch these majestic animals that roam the rocky mountain ranges at high altitudes. The other option would be to head to Nanda Devi National Park and the Valley of Flowers National Park in the state of Uttarakhand.
Ganges River Dolphin: The Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary in Bhagalpur, Bihar, is the place to go to see this endangered species from October to June. Their breeding period commences in September and October, and there is a good chance of sighting calves.
Nilgiri Tahr: The Eravikulam National Park in Kerala is home to one of the highest populations, and the best time to visit is from September to March.
Kashmir Red Stag (Hangul): Sight the red deer at theDachigam National Park in Kashmir in September and October.
Golden Mahseer: The migrating fish, which seeks warmer waters in winters, can be spotted at the Nameri National Park, Assam, from October to April.
Mahale, S. 2013. Finding a sanctuary. Hindustan Times, 02 November.