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Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary
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Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary spread over parts of Pune, Thane and Raigad districts in Maharashtra was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1974. It is located between longitudes 73o29' E to 73 o38' E and latitudes 19 o00'N to 19 o13'N. The total area of the wildlife sanctuary is 130.78 sq km. The elevation ranges from 650-1,140 m (BirdLife IBA Factsheet) with an annual rainfall that may be as high as 6,000 mm or more (Kadam et al. 2004). Rivers that flow through the sanctuary include the Arala and two large tributaries of the Krishna river-Bhima and Ghod-as well as several streams criss-crossing the Bhimashankar plateau.

Vegetation types in this sanctuary are western tropical hill forests and semi-evergreen forests (Champion and Seth 1968). The dominant tree species are mango (Mangifera indica), Javan plum or jamun (Syzigium cumini), chebulic myrobalan or hirda (Terminalia chebula), belleric myrobalan or baehra (Terminalia bellirica). Other tree species seen in the forests include anjani or ironwood tree (Memecylon umbellatum), wild lime or kattunaragam (Atlantia racemosa) and Xantolis tomentosa while the dominant shrub species is karvi or Carvia callosa. Besides, several interesting species of epiphytes, mosses and bioluminescent fungi too can be found here (Gole and Borges 2004).

This wildlife sanctuary is well known for its resident population of Indian giant squirrels (Ratufa indica). Besides, leopard cats (Prionailurus bengalensis), sambar (Cervus unicolor), mouse deer (Moschiola meminna), striped hyenas (Hyaena hyaena) and wild boar (Sus scrofa) too can be spotted here. Other wild mammals resident in this sanctuary include common langurs (Semnopithecus entellus), (Canis aureus), Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) and Rhesus macaques (Macaca radiata) (Gole and Borges 2004).

Recognised as an Important Bird Area, over 172 species of birds have been observed in this protected area. These include the endangered Nilgiri wood-pigeon (Columba elphinstonii) (BirdLife International 2001), Malabar parakeet (Psittacula columboides) and plum-headed parakeet (Psittacula cyanocephala). Other interesting species found here are Tytler's leaf warbler (Phylloscopus tytleri) (Ali and Ripley 1987, Grimmett et al. 1998), pompadour green pigeons (Treron pompadora) now classified as a separate species and renamed as Treron affinis and a small sunbird (Leptocoma minima) (Gole and Borges 2004).

Threats to the sanctuary come from excessive tourist inflow and destruction of habitat by camp fires (Gole and Borges 2004). This protected area is an important pilgrimage spot owing to the presence of the Bhimashankar temple, one of the 12 Jyotirlingam Shiva temples in India. The large numbers of tourists to the sanctuary, especially during Mahashivratri along with poor promotion of eco-tourism are leading to serious environmental disturbances. Other tourist attractions include Kamalja Devi and Hanuman lakes, Nagphani-the sanctuary's highest point shaped like a snake's hood-and the nearby Tungi Padar and Peth forts as well as the Matheran range. Water pollution caused by disposal of garbage into waterholes as well as air pollution due to vehicular traffic are major concerns. Several deaths of wild animals due to ingestion of plastic have also been reported. Other threats to the sanctuary include, overgrazing, cutting trees for fuelwood, utilisation of forest land for agriculture, migration of communities from neighboring areas, illegal constructions, over exploitation of non-forest timber products and human-animal conflicts (Gole and Borges 2004). Attempts are being made to create a community forest buffer to help preserve and restore the forests of this sanctuary (Punde 2007).


Ali, S and Ripley, S.D. 1987. Compact handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan. (Second Edition), Oxford University Press, New Delhi, India.

BirdLife International .2001. Threatened birds of Asia: The BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK

BirdLife IBA Factsheet.
.Accessed on 5 December 2007.

Champion, H.G and Seth, S.K. 1968. A revised survey of forest types of India. Government of India Press, Delhi, India.

Gole, P and Borges, R .2004. Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary. In: Important Bird Areas in India: Priority sites for conservation. (eds Islam, M. Z and Rahmani, A. R). Indian Bird Conservation Network: Bombay Natural History Society and Birdlife International, UK. pp 698-699.

Grimmet, R., Inskipp, C and Inskipp, T. 1988. Birds of the Indian Subcontinent, Christopher Helm Ltd, London, UK.

Kadam, R., Joshi, S., Rode, R., Deosthali, V and Kale, M. P. 2004. Project Report on Habitat suitability analysis using satellite remote sensing and GIS in Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary for Giant Squirrel (Ratufa indica). Department of Geography, University of Pune.
. Accessed on 5 December 2007.

Punde, S. 2007. Developing a community forest buffer for the Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary, India. Project under the Conservation Leadership Programme. Project No: 01207. Project Dates: 09.2008 - 07.2008. email: [email protected]. . Accessed on 5 December 2007.

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