Published: 6th January 2021 at 7:39 am. Posted in Blog.
Tal Chhapar Wildlife Sanctuary
Tal Chhapar Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Northwestern Rajasthan on the fringe of the Great Indian Desert; The Thar. This small grassland habitat is surrounded by sparse scrub and dry dusty plains. Originally a hunting ground for the Maharaja of Bikaner, it was declared a sanctuary in the 1960s.
Due to the salinity of the soil at Chhapar, one of the regions primary exports is salt. The underground water in the area is so salty that it is simply brought up to the surface with help of bore wells, spread in salt pans and left to evaporate in the relentless blazing sun. Afterwards the salt crystals are collected and sent off for refinement.
Thanks to its strategic position on a key migratory route, Tal Chhapar is one of the best places to see an amazing variety of raptors such as harriers, falcons, eagles and vultures. Birds begin to appear in September with many staying through until March, sustained by two key prey species; the desert jird and the spiny-tailed lizard.
This stunning grassland wasn’t always the paradise it is today. After decades of neglect and encroachment by the nearby salt production, the sanctuary was in a sorry state.
In recent years the grassland has been gradually transformed, thanks to the efforts coordinated by Mr. S.S. Poonia, the range forest officer at Tal Chhapar. The first step was to strip away an invasive plant; Prosopis juliflora, that was choking the habitat. Next, a variety of grasses were planted such as Mothiya grass, a favourite of the blackbucks, which derives its name from ‘moti’ meaning pearl, as its sweet seeds look like pearls.
The final result is vast swathes of pristine grassland bustling with animal life.
India’s grasslands are home to some of its most endangered species, many of which are endemic. This important habitat now only exists in a handful of places in India and is sadly becoming increasingly scarce. One of the last true grassland ecosystems in India, Tal Chhapar is a haven for the iconic blackbuck antelope and a myriad of birdlife.
The huge variety of interesting and unique subjects combined with smooth eye-pleasing backgrounds, make Tal Chappar a wildlife photographers paradise.
Mammals of Tal Chhapar:
The sanctuary is home to a wide range of mammals including blackbucks, chinkara, nilgai, desert and Bengal fox, wild boar, desert jird, black naped hare, desert cat and jungle cat.
Reptiles of Tal Chhapar:
Often overlooked in favour of the more easily seen mammals and birdlife Tal Chhapar is also home to 13 species of reptile. Species recorded here include the Indian saw-scaled viper, Jerdon’s snake-eye, King cobra, Indian fringe-fingered lizard, leaf-toed gecko, monitor lizard, spiny tailed lizard and more.
With the abundance of prey species the sanctuary is home to an incredible range of birdlife. During the Winter months Tal Chhapar is one of the worlds best locations to see and photograph mighty raptors. Birds of prey seen here include the imperial eagle, steppe eagle, laggar falcon, common and lesser kestrels, tawny eagle, Montagu’s and pallid harriers, red necked falcon, cinereous vulture, Eurasian and Himalayan griffon, the Egyptian vulture and much much more!
Brown snake eagle
Juvenile White-eyed Buzzard