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There is nothing to beat the thrill that you can derive out of walking along a pathway in a dense forest while anticipating the sighting of wild animals in their natural habitat or absorbing the fantastic and myriad range of colours that the area’s flora may have to offer. To be able to absorb such a wonderful experience, you must head toward the Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary in Kolhapur district which offers all this and more, suggests G. Saiprakash

Tourism in wilderness areas has turned out to be one of the major economic activities globally in the  last quarter of the 20th century. The direct economic benefits occurring out of such activity help the local community earn a livelihood. The custodians of these areas, the conservationists, and tourists too have of late realised that one cannot expect to protect such areas at the expense of the local populace; rather they should be involved in such measures, and should also be adequately compensated economically in the exercise. Eco-tourism is one of those beneficial activities that involve responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment and also help improve the well-being of local people. Wildlife tourism requires a multi-disciplinary approach to ensure that appropriate planning in terms of planning and execution is adopted to minimise any harmful impact on the environment. Nature tourism is based on the use of natural resources in a relatively undeveloped state, including scenery, topography, water features, vegetation, and wildlife.

Tourism in protected areas aims at creating awareness among tourists, the general public and even the local villagers of the importance of the conservation of biodiversity. Vast Expanse of Flora and Fauna The Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary notified by the Government of Maharashtra in 1985 is one of several such places popular amongst nature lovers. Known as the Dajipur Sanctuary, the area in and around this place was actually the private shooting block of the erstwhile Maharaja of Kolhapur. Post the country’s independence from the rule of the British it was notified as the first wildlife sanctuary in the state of Maharashtra in 1958. Further realisation of the ecological  importance of the area led to the notification of the Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary in 1985.

The area of this sanctuary extends over 351.16 square kilometers and is nestled in a hotspot of biodiversity, the Western Ghats. Along with Chandoli National Park, Koyana Wildlife Sanctuary and Kaas plateau, the Radhanagari Wildlife sanctuary forms the Maharashtra cluster of the World Heritage Site-Serial Nomination in Maharashtra leg of the Western Ghats. The aesthetic and recreational value of the area attracts a large number of wildlife enthusiasts.

Gaur the flagship species

The Indian Bison or the Gaur is the flagship species of this sanctuary and its other notable fauna include the tiger, leopard,sloth bear, Giant Squirrel, mouse deer, barking deer, and so on. The topographical variations of the diverse habitat support varied plant diversity. Dangs and Sadas are the unique habitats in this wildlife sanctuary. The dense evergreen and semi-evergreen patches of forests constitute the ‘climatic climax’ of vegetation known locally as ‘Dangs’ or ‘Rai’. Rai and devrai refer to patches of forests that are traditionally protected by local villagers and are of cultural and religious importance.

Numerous streams, perennial and seasonal, that are scattered all over drain into the catchments of two dams constructed on the rivers Bhogavati (Radhanagari Dam) and river Dudhganga (Kallamwadi Dam). These two reservoirs and their surrounding forests constitute prime habitat for the animals, birds, insects and reptiles found in this sanctuary. The vegetation found here is principally of the southern tropical semi-evergreen and the west coast semi-evergreen forest type with a mix of the southern tropical moist mixed deciduous forests and the west coast tropical evergreen forests.

The principal species of flora found in the area include Jamun, Mango, Anjani, Hirda, Surangi, Phanasi, Karvi, Nana, Beheda, Umber, Asana, Kumbi, Kumkum, Bibla, Karavand, etc. In addition to these, many species of conservation importance, listed in the ‘Red Data’ book of the IUCN, are present in the area. The sanctuary is home to a variety of wild fauna, including 47 species of mammals, 59 species of reptiles, 20 species of amphibians, 264 species of birds and 66 species of butterflies. The area also plays host to many an endemically threatened flora and fauna. The forests are contiguous to the protected areas of Goa and Karnataka and constitute an important corridor for wildlife movement including tigers from the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve. The climate is moderate with mean rainfall averaging 2,500 mm with a maximum recorded rainfall of 5,000 mm. During Summers the mean temperature ranges between 30 to 35 and the minimum during winter ranges between 9 to 16 degrees Celsius. The spots frequented by the tourists include the Rajarshi Shahu Sagar and Garden, Laxmi Sagar, Ugvai Devi, Mahadev Mandir, Shivgad, Zanjuche Pani, Hadkechisari, Laxmi Talav, Kondan Darshan, Savarai Sada, Kalamma Mandir, Iderganj Pathar and the nature information centres at Dajipur and Radhanagari.

Trekkers’ Favourite
Dajipur view from wagache pani tower

The single road traversing from Dajipur to the Savarai Sada takes the visitors across a cross-section of the lovely landscapes, enabling the visitor to appreciate the ecological significance of the area and its natural beauty. Also, for the enthusiastic and energetic visitor, trek routes offer a test of physical endurance and at the same time provide a deep insight into the typical forests of the area. The trek routes of the Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary include Raksai Mandir to Rajapur, Farale-Surangi Gate to Dajipur, Thakyacha Wada to Manbet-Borbet, Ugvai Devi to Phonda Ghat Point, Phonda Ghat Point to Shivgad, Zunjuche Pani to Hadakechi Sari, Wagache Pani to Laxmi Point, Laxmi Point to Jalwache Pani, and other routes. The trekkers need to take due authorisation and must be accompanied by a local guide, usually a member of the nearby VEDC (Village Eco Development Committee) at a fee prescribed by the park authority.

Author: G. Saiprakash 
Photographs © Sh. Raman Kulkarni, Vijay Hinge, G. Saiprakash
Source: Maharashtra Unlimited Volume 3 | Issue 4 - 2014

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