Mahananda Wild Life Sanctuary
Situated in the Darjeeling Forest Division with a close proximity to Bagdogra Airport (20kms) and Siliguri Junction (10kms) the Mahananda is one of the most important wildlife sanctuaries in North Bengal. Mahananda covers an area of more that 150sq.km of continuous forest land and was started in 1955 as a game sanctuary mainly to protect Gaur or Indian Bison which was facing severe threat of extinction.
In 1959, its name was changed to Wildlife Sanctuary in pursuance of wildlife board in India because of its rich biodiversity. With Mahananda River flowing through it the Sanctuary is bounded by Tista River in the east and Hill Cart Road leading to Darjeeling in the west. The sanctuary reaches up to an elevation of 2500ft at Latpanchar in Kurseong hill. The vegetation type of this forest varies from Riverine forest of tree like Khair-sisso-simul to huge sal and braod leaved forests. The variation of altitude and crop pattern has naturally influenced the composition of wildlife.
The sanctuary shelters a large population of migratory elephant for a long period of time. The sanctuary has got a tremendous importance in the forest maps of India because of a considerable number of Bengal Tiger. Despite its small size the sanctuary holds atleast 14 majestic animals (according to 2003 census). Apart from these the faunal life of the Mahananda Sanctuary comprises of gaur, leopard, spotted deer, sloth bear, barking deer, wild dog, boar, sambar, along with smaller mammals like porcupine, pangolin, jungle cat, leopard cat, civet etc. recently some hullock gibbon and black capped languor have been released in the sanctuary and they can be seen living with the company of rhesus monkeys.
Mahananda is a home for a large number of colourful feathered animals. The list includes several species of babblers, wagtails, bee eaters, swallows, sun birds, rollers, robins, fly catchers, thrush, drongo, kites, eagles, hornbills, orioles, peacock, fouls, egrets, king fishers, wood pickers and much more.
To help the growth of herbivorous animals several glades have been crated at convenient spots inside the sanctuary. These glades have artificial saltlicks where the animals are seen coming to taste the salt in the early morning and evening. The sanctuary has well laid forest roads, which covers about 50kms. Apart from forest roads two national high way (NH 51 and NH 31) cut through the sanctuary.
A drive or trek through the forest roads opens up places of magnificent beauty and gives a glimpse of excellent natural and man made forests. The watchers built beside Gulma River and at Laltong are some ideal places to observe the grazing animals specially elephant, gaur and deer.
The gateway to the sanctuary is Sukna on the Siliguri-Darjeeling highway. There are two forest rest houses at Sukna and one at Latpanchar in the northern part on the Sanctuary.