Exploring wildlife has always been fun especially in places where wild animals have become a part of culture and mythology. India has many sanctuaries and national parks that have been established as endangered species.

Here are some of the best wildlife sanctuaries in India

Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary – Gujarat

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Also known as Sasan Gir, this national park and wildlife sanctuary is located in the state of Gujarat with a total area of 1,412 km2 (545 sq mi). It is one of the most important protected areas in Asia and the only region in the continent where the Asiatic lions are found. Due to the uncontrolled hunting expeditions led by the rulers of Indian princely states, the number of Asiatic lions saw a drastic decline in the 19th century. After the British viceroys highlighted the serious concern, the Nawab of Junagadh established the sanctuary here. Today, it is one of the biggest attractions for tourists visiting the state of Gujarat.

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Gir is part of the Kathiawar-Gir dry deciduous forests ecoregion and is known for its diverse ecosystem with a large variety of flora and fauna. With more than 500 species of plants, it becomes the largest dry deciduous forest in western India. It is home to broadleaf trees, Prosopis, casuarinas, banyan, charal, kalam, sirus, amli, umlo, karanj, zizyphus, tendu babul, Jamun, ber among various species of acacia as well. Other than the lion, you also get to see 37 species of reptiles, 300 species of birds, 38 species of mammals, and 2000 species of insects. The most seen animals along with lions are rusty-spotted cats, desert cats, honey badger, ruddy mongoose, Indian gray mongoose, golden jackal, striped hyena, jungle cat, and Indian leopard.

Sundarbans National Park – West Bengal

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Sundarbans has managed to grab many titles, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ramsar site, Biosphere Reserve, and a national park. It is mainly a mangrove forest located on Ganges Delta and becomes one of the largest reserves for the Bengal tiger. It is also a favorable habitat for salt-water crocodiles and a large variety of invertebrate species, birds, and reptiles. It became a Tiger Reserve in 1973, wildlife in 1977 and a national park in 1984, UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, and a Ramsar site in 2019. The total area covered by this mangrove is approximately 16,900 square kilometers (6,526 sq mi) with an altitude of 7.5 m above sea level.

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It comprises 54 small islands and multiple distributaries of the Ganges River. Sundarbans get their name from the Sundari tree which is found in abundance in this area, the tree has many specific attributes and the notable one is its roots growing above the ground for respiration. Besides the Royal Bengal Tiger, you also get to see chital, flying fox, jungle cat, fox, mongoose, Indian grey, wild boar, macaques, leopard cats, fishing cats, along with various species of reptiles, marine mammals, and a huge birddom. Among the most-seen birds are black-tailed godwits, cormorants, rose-ringed parakeets, whistling teals, etc.

Kaziranga National Park – Assam

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This national park comes under the boundaries of three different districts in Assam which are Nagaon, Karbi Anglong, and Golaghat. It boasts of being a World Heritage Site with two-thirds of the world’s great one-horned rhinoceroses. The total number of rhinos in this Kaziranga is 2,413 as per the census held in March 2018. Other than the rhinos, it also hosts the highest density of tigers among the protected areas in the world and become a Tiger Reserve in 2006. It becomes a large breeding ground for swamp deer, wild water buffalo, and elephants and is considered an Important Bird Area by the BirdLife International agency for protecting avifaunal species.

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This park has performed better than the other protected areas in India when it comes to wildlife conservation. Being positioned on the edge of the Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot, it comprises tropical moist broadleaf forests, marshland, elephant grass, four major rivers, and various small water bodies. It was established in 1905 as a reserve forest and became a central theme of several documentaries, songs, and books. The park spans a total area of 378 km2 (146 sq mi) with an addition of 429 km2 done recently. In terms of elevation, it ranges from 40 m (131ft) to 80 m (262 ft) and is circumscribed by the Brahmaputra River.

Jim Corbett National Park – Uttarakhand

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The oldest national park in India which was established in 1936 for the protection of the endangered Bengal tiger, it has been named after the renowned hunter and naturalist Jim Corbett. It comes under the boundaries of Pauri Garhwal district and the Nainital district of Uttarakhand and was originally called Hailey National Park. It was the first park to come under the Project Tiger initiative of the government of India and has now become an eminent destination for ecotourism. The park spans a total area of 520.8 km2 (201.1 sq mi) with an elevation range of 1,300 to 4,000 ft (40 to 1,220 m). It also becomes a part of the sub-Himalayan belt and comprises a large lake, grasslands, marshy depressions, riverine belts, and hills.

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The park hosts 25 reptile species, 580 bird species, 50 mammal species, and 110 tree species among them, mango, Rohini, peepal, haldu, and sal are found in great number. Apart from tigers the other animals you can see here are rhesus macaques, langur, Indian pangolins, Himalayan goral, yellow-throated martens, otters, Indian grey mongoose, Himalayan black bears, chital, hog deer, sambar, gharials, crocodiles, Indian python, Indian elephants, barking deer, leopard cat, fishing cat, jungle cat, and leopards as well. IN You can also find 36 species of dragonflies along with seven species of amphibians, with this highly disparate wildlife, Ranthambore manages to attract more than 70,000 visitors per year.

Ranthambore National Park – Sawai Madhopur Rajasthan

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It is the biggest and the most famous wildlife conservation area of Rajasthan with a total area of 1334 sq. km. It became a national park on 1 November 1980 and today it attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world because of the exquisite sightings of Bengal tigers. Originally established as Sawai Madhopur Game Sanctuary in 1955, it came under the Project Tiger in 1973 and later subsumed two more adjoining sanctuaries which are Swai Mansingh sanctuary and Keladevi Sanctuary. Besides the tiger, visitors also get to see chital, mugger crocodile, rhesus macaque, southern plains gray langur, sloth bear, striped hyena, sambar, wild boar, nilgai, Indian leopard along with a broad array of reptiles, birds, plans, and trees.

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Notably, the park hosts one of the largest banyan trees in India and is bordered by two rivers which are Chambal and Banas from south and north respectively. The park has contributed significantly to the increasing number of tigers in India and in the last few years, their numbers have shown positive trends. The forest officials have also managed to clamp down on poaching and other illegal trades involving animal pelt and bones. In this park, safari can be done in the morning as well as in the evening. Besides the wildlife safari, visitors can also a fortress and a temple which are located inside the jungle.