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5 Wildlife National Parks and Sanctuaries in and around Darjeeling

The scenic and naturally beautiful Darjeeling district has a lot to offer for nature and wildlife lovers. Visit these top five parks and sanctuaries to experience the diversity of its lofty hills, riverine forests, the spectacular flora and fauna in and around the picturesque district.

Singalila National Park: At an altitude of over 7,000 feet above sea level, the national park is best known for its scenic trekking route with rhododendron, oak and magnolia trees lining the path to Sandakphu. Sightings of wildlife may include red panda, leopard cat, barking deer, yellow-throated marten, wild boar, pangolin and pika while the Himalayan black bear, leopard, clouded leopard, serow and takin are some other mammals that live on the land with even tigers sometimes venturing into the area. A true bird’s paradise with the diversity in its offerings as its home to the Himalayan Vulture, scarlet minivet, kalij pheasant, rufous-vented tit, blood pheasant, brown and fulvous parrotbills, satyr tragopan and Old World babblers like the fire-tailed myzornis and the golden-breasted fulvetta.

Neora Valley National Park: Located in Kalimpong district, the national park is a lush paradise with its diversity in flora and fauna. Its virgin natural forests, dense bamboo groves and rhododendron trees house a variety of animals including red panda, Indian leopard, Asiatic black bear, sloth bear, Asian golden cat, wild boar, leopard cat, goral, serow, barking deer, flying squirrel and clouded leopard among others. The park also draws in entomologists due to the variety it offers in butterflies, moths, beetles, bees, wasps, bugs and cicadas. Rare birds like Rufous-throated Partridge, Satyr Tragopan, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Bay Woodpecker, Golden-throated Barbet are also found here.

Jore Pokhri Wildlife Sanctuary: Located on a hilltop, almost 20 kilometers away from Darjeeling city, the wildlife sanctuary is a mix of natural and modern elements. It derives its name after its twin (Jore) lakes (Pokhri) and is home to the rare Himalayan Salamander, swans and monkeys. The sanctuary features several scenic spots, resting benches around the lake area and a religious snake sculpture in the middle of the lake.

Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary: Located between Siliguri and Kurseong, the reserve forest was once a game sanctuary but got the protected status in a bid to save the Indian Bison and Royal Bengal Tiger, which were facing the threat of extinction. At 4,000 feet above sea level, Latpanchar is the highest place in the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary and Sukna is the gateway to this sanctuary. Some very endangered bird species like Rufous-necked Hornbill, Oriental Pied Hornbill and Great Hornbill can be found here. It is also home to Himalayan serow, Himalayan porcupine, Himalayan Black Bear and even rarer mammals like Binturong and Clouded Leopard.

Jaldapara National Park: Situated at the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas in Alipurduar District, the national park comprises vast grassland with patches of riverine forests. It’s home to the Indian one horned rhinoceros in the state, an animal threatened with extinction, and other animals including the Indian leopard, Indian elephants, sambar, barking deer, spotted deer, hog deer, wild boars, and gaur. It is also a delight for birdwatchers with sightings of Bengal florican, crested eagle, Pallas's fish eagle, shikra, Finn's weaver, jungle fowl, and more. Visitors can avail car and elephant safaris.

Pictures courtesy: Wikipedia and West Bengal Wildlife Dept

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