Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary (A Paradise for the Gangetic Dolphins)

 The Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area in the Upper Gangetic plain in Uttar Pradesh, India and covers an area of 400.6 km2 in the Terai of the Bahraich district. In 1987, it was brought under the purview of the ‘Project Tiger’, and together with the Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary and the Dudhwa National Park it forms the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve. It was established in 1975.

The Katarniaghat Forest provides strategic connectivity between tiger habitats of Dudhwa and Kishanpur in India and the Bardia National Park in Nepal. Its fragile Terai ecosystem comprises a mosaic of sal and teak forests, lush grasslands, numerous swamps and wetlands. It is home to a number of endangered species including gharial, tiger, rhino, Gangetic dolphin, swamp deer, hispid hare, Bengal florican, the white-backed and long-billed vultures. 

One of the best places in the world for seeing the gharial in its natural habitat is the Girwa River, where it is found sympatric with the mugger. The population of gharials in this stretch was one of the three that were still breeding, when the project to conserve this reptile from the verge of extinction was initiated in 1975. 

However, between the years of 2001 and 2005, almost all the gharial nests were raided by tribals who consider them a delicacy. Mugger crocodiles are also seen in small number in the Girwa river, as their favorite haunts are stagnant wetlands like the many taals and baghars that dot the sanctuary. 

Side by side the serenely swimming gharial can be seen frolicking Ganges dolphins. Recent discoveries in herpetofauna of Katarniaghat are highly fascinating and are represented by several species such as the banded krait, the Burmese rock python, the yellow speckled wolf-snake and the paradise flying snake. 

In 2012, a rare red coral kukri snake was sighted in the sanctuary. This snake with the scientific name Oligodon kheriensis was first described from the North Kheri Division in 1936. This Project Tiger reserve was written off by the conservationists in the year 2005, when Ramesh_K._Pandey, took over the charge of the sanctuary and turned the things around and restored the habitat and tiger population in the reserve with his much admired work. He completely turned things around. He motivated his field staff, and caught poachers. The tigers made a quick come back. Today Katarniaghat has more than 20 tigers and is home to rhinos and elephants

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