The Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary is a hidden gem of Karnataka’s biodiversity! Bhimgad offers a critical corridor between Dandeli-Anashi Tiger Reserve to its south and the recently declared Mhadei Tiger Reserve to its West in Goa. It also links up Dandeli-Anashi all the way to Radhanagiri Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra, potentially creating what is being called as the Greater Sahayadri Tiger Landscape…some 5000 Sq Kms in size! This is how critical Bhimgad is as a habitat and a corridor. One can spot the Mhadei River in the right hand corner of this picture (you can click on it to enlarge), which is a bird’s eye view of the Sanctuary.
The highest of the laterite cliffs is the Krishnapur cliff. Some caves here harbour the rare Theobald Tomb Bat (Taphozous theobaldi). In some caves near Talevadi, there is another special bat, the Lesser False Vampire Bat (Megaderma spasma), there is very little we know about all these mysterious bat species…
There are many such sheer laterite cliffs in Bhimgad…which makes it’s landscape so unique and very picturesque..some of these cliffs rise between 100-120 meters high! The ancient 17th century fort built by Chatrapati Shivaji is within the Sanctuary and it is named after this very well preserved monument.
One of the tributaries to the Mhadei…the beautiful Pansari! Mhadei river itself originates here from a cluster of about 30 springs! It is one of the purest rivers we can find in Western Ghats. It joins Mandovi river in Goa. Other rivers flowing from this area include Malaprabha and Tillari.
The plateau grasslands of Bhimgad are excellent habitat for ungulates and other prey species. There are a few villages which can be re-located, as the people are more than willing right now…when this is done more such grasslands can be re-stored. I was fortunate to have trekked in this beautiful landscape for two days led by the dedicated Hon WL Warden of Belgaum, Sachin Patil and the frontline staff of the forest dept. Earlier, local green activist Dugesh Kasbekar had played a critical role in bringing the fragile status of Bhimgad’s protection to the attention of the nation through the SC empowered CEC in 2004.
The Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary was established in Dec 2011 by the Govt of Karnataka…it covers about 200 Sq Kms and is a critical habitat for many species including the King Cobra, Elephant and the Tiger. It is also the one of the only two known sites in the world, where the endangered Wroughton’s Free-tailed Bat (Otomops wroughtoni) is found! The other site is in Cambodia and recently one individual was discovered in Meghalaya! We hardly know anything of these rare and amazing Bats..species of this genus Otomops are widely scattered across Central and Southern Africa, Madagascar, Indonesia and New Guinea.
At the pristine Mhadei river we saw many beautiful dragonflies and freshwater fish, but what grabbed our attention was this display of two Stream Rubies (Rhinocypha bisignata)…the forest staff with me could not believe the sight of these iridescent little creatures, as their wings caught some sunlight and were glowing like real rubies! I urged them all to watch this spectacle through my ‘Swarovski’ and they all were simply mesmerised! I drove home my point of the diversity of insects, birds which Bhimgad harbours, apart from the big, charismatic mammals! This image was taken by my wide-angle lens..hence only representative!
By the way, i have been recently inducted into the Karnataka State Board of Wildlife, which is a big honour. One of my first tasks as a Board Member is to bring more attention to this amazing and critical Sanctuary and therefore bring more resources and better protection. Imagine the incredible corridor value of Bhimgad for the wildlife of the Western Ghats, specially for Tigers!