Visiting South Khairbari: A Unique Project that Deserves Applause
Forests and wild life attracts most of us and if you are passionate about getting close to nature and animal behaviour in their natural habitat, then you must experience a jungle safari at least once in your lifetime. This time I was on a trip visiting a number of nature reserves and national parks when I had the opportunity to explore this particular place in Dooars, North Bengal which is a one-of-a-kind initiative, taken by any State Government in the entire North East India.
Within a short distance from Jaldapara National Park, South Khairbari is only 15 km from Madarihat. This Nature Park was inaugurated on 12th November, 2003 with the objective of building a circus animal rescue centre. Mainly rescued leopards and tigers from circus after the ban on the usage of these animals, recovered from illicit poachers and mishaps are kept here, taken care of and given proper treatment. Built by the Coochbehar Forest Department, it runs on the grant-in-aid of Jalpaiguri Zilla Parishad.
The Nature Park is beautifully designed and offers a very natural ambience. On entering the park, the path goes through dense plantations of Sal (Shorea robusta), Shishu (Dalbergia sissoo), Khair (Acacia catechu), Rudraksh (Elaeocarpus ganitrus) and various other trees on either side. A wooden bridge is built over the old Torsa river that flows through the area. The glittering rocks and lots of fish in the water make way for a pleasant welcome. A watch tower is built right at the end of the bridge on the opposite side that gives a nice view of the entire place.
The park can be explored with available battery-run cars inside. However, I chose to walk throughout to spend a better time up close with nature. It takes around 20 minutes to reach the confined area from the entrance. The confinements where the animals are kept in individual areas are fantastically habitat-friendly with various trees and plantations, providing a forest replica to the rescued animals. A number of rescued cubs and new-borns are also present. Leopards and tigers are fed with beef that are purchased from the market.
Time flies by as one watch the actions and reactions of the animals. I had arrived at South Khairbari in the afternoon and hence, I was lucky enough to watch them take bath, munch, wander, sit in the shade and dry themselves up. The frequent roars and uproars were a great add-on. Each tiger and leopard has their own areas to wander and it offers a great opportunity to study their behaviour. Also, they are trained to get back to their own dens, much like that of a zoo, but the rest of the aspects in this Nature Park are quite different.
Apart from spending time with the wild, visitors can also opt for boating on the Torsa waters within the park. There are also three cottages of the Forest Department which can be booked if one wants to stay amidst the wild. Guides are available to take tourists around the area. Visitors of all age groups can enjoy this destination.
I had a great time moving in and around South Khairbari. It is literally a great initiative taken for the leopards and tigers. It is absolutely a wonderful place to study animal behaviour and for photography. South Khairbari was truly a delight before I moved on to Jaldapara National Park for the safari.
Have you ever visited South Khairbari? Share your experiences below.