Did you know that India has 18 biosphere reserves out of which 11 are a part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, recorgnised globally as important areas of biodiversity. But what exactly are Biosphere Reserves and how are they different from our national parks and wildlife sanctuaries? Biosphere Reserves are areas of biodiversity where not only flora and fauna but human settlements that are closely dependent on the nature for their survival, are protected. In short, it's a natural habitat where national parks or wildlife sanctuaries along with the buffer zones are protected. In India we have 18 such Biosphere Reserves and exploring them go beyond just exploring the national parks they host.
Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, 1986
The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, an International Biosphere Reserve as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Key faunas are Nilgiri tahr and lion-tailed macaque. Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is home to national parks such as Aralam, Mudumalai, Mukurthi, Nagarhole, Bandipur and Silent Valley, and wildlife sanctuaries such as Wayanad and Sathyamangalam.
Nokrek Biosphere Reserve in Meghalaya, 1988
Home to the Nokrek National Park, Nokrek Biosphere Reserve is an important biodiversity hotspot. Nokrek is one of the last remaining homes of the elusive red panda; a safe habitat for the rare stump-tailed macaque, pig-tailed macaque and hoolock gibbons. It doesn't come as a surprise that Nokrek is also an Important Bird Area.
Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve in Uttarakhand, 1988
The second highest mountain in India, Nanda Devi is also the 23rd highest peak in the world. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Nanda Devi is also an important religious site.
Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, 1989
The biosphere reserve is where many endemic plants and animals thrive. It is a protected area for the saltwater crocodile, giant leatherback sea turtle, Malayan box turtle, Nicobar tree shrew, to name a few. The reserve also encompasses important territories and traditional lands of the indigenous Nicobarese and Shompen tribes.
Manas Biosphere Reserve in Assam, 1989
Manas Biosphere Reserve is home to Manas National Park, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a Project Tiger and an elephant reserve. But this is just the tip of an iceberg. It is a protected area for the rare and endangered Assam roofed turtle, hispid hare, golden langur, pygmy hog and wild water buffalo.
Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve in Tamil Nadu, 1989
Do you know about the dugong or sea cow? The Gulf of Mannar is where you will find these gentle underwater giants. Home to thousands of species of flora and fauna, dugongs being one of them. The reserve is rich in marine life, visit this for sharks and dolphins too.
Sundarban Biosphere Reserve in West Bengal, 1989
A national park and also a tiger reserve, Sundarban biosphere reserve in West Bengal is a declared UNESCO World Heritage Site. The reserve is one of the most important homes for the royal Bengal tiger and saltwater crocodile. Sundarban Biosphere Reserve didn't just stop there, it went ahead and became a Ramsar site too.
Simlipal Biosphere Reserve in Odisha, 1994
An important elephant reserve, Simlipal Biosphere Reserve encompasses the Simlipal National Park, Simlipal Tiger Reserve, Hadgarh Wildlife Sanctuary and Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary. Visit this reserve to look at the famous gaur, also known as the Indian bison, royal Bengal tiger and wild elephants.
Dibru-Saikhowa Biosphere Reserve in Assam, 1997
Dibru-Saikhowa Biosphere Reserve is an important habitat for the golden langur, the rare white-winged wood duck, water buffalo, black-breasted parrotbill, capped langur and the royal Bengal tiger.
Dihang-Dibang Biosphere Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh, 1998
The Mouling National Park and the Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary are both a part of Dihang-Dibang Biosphere Reserve. The natural vegetation of this area is what makes this so special, a continuous chain of tropical to mountain tundra forest. Wildlife enthusiats love this area for its rare mammals like the Mishmi takin, red goral, , musk deer, red panda, Asiatic black bear, Gongshan muntjac, Mechuka giant flying squirrel and Mishmi giant flying squirrel. Birders will love the rare Scalter's monal and Blyth's tragopan.
Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, 1999
The Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve consists of Satpura National Park, Bori Sanctuary and Pachmarhi Sanctuary. Consisting mainly of forest habitats, Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve is home to the endemic fauna like the chinkara, nilgai, wild dogs, the Indian wolf, bison, Indian giant squirrels, and flying squirrels.
Kanchengdzonga Biosphere Reserve in Sikkim, 2000
Also a UNESCO World Heritage site, Kanchengdzonga Biosphere Reserve is home to Lepcha tribal communities. The reserve's buffer zone consists of Tholung Monastery, one of the most important and sacred monasteries in sikkim. The reserve is a protected home to the elusive snow leopard, musk deer, Himalayan tahr, Asiatic wild dog, sloth bear, civet, Himalayan black bear, red panda, Tibetan wild ass, Himalayan blue sheep, serow, goral and takin.
Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, 2001
The reserve has made it to UNESCO's list for its 2000 types of medicinal plants, rare and endangered ones included. It is also home to the the Kanikaran tribe, one of the world's oldest surviving tribes.
Achanakamar -Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, 2005
The region is home to more than 105 species of medicinal plants, out of which 25 are pretty rare.
Kutch Biosphere Reserve in Gujarat, 2008
The region mainly comprises of Great Rann of Kutch and Little Rann of Kutch, covering the Kutch Desert Sanctuary in Great Rann of Kutch and Wild Ass Sanctuary in the Little Rann if Kutch. It is an important habitat for the Near Threatened Indian wild ass.
Cold Desert Biosphere Reserve in Himachal Pradesh, 2009
Cold Desert Biosphere Reserve includes Pin Valley National Park, Chandratal, Sarchu and Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary. It is also an important habitat of the rare snow leopard.
Seshachalam Hills Biosphere Reserve in Andhra Pradesh, 2010
Seshachalam comprises of Sri Venkateswara National Park and Idupulapaya. The region is popular with birders. The globally threatened yellow-throated bulbul can be seen here. About 178 species of birds are found here out of which pompadour green pigeon and oriental white-backed vulture are some of the most sought after ones. Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Blue-faced Malkoha, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Indian Scimitar-Babbler and Loten's Sunbird, to name some more.
Panna Biosphere Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, 2011
Panna National Park and Ken Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary constitute this biosphere reserve. The reserve is home to the royal Bengal tiger, leopard, chital, chinkara, nilgai, sambhar and sloth bear. More than 200 species of birds make this reserve a special place for birders.