The Geography of Ranthambhore National Park
The Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve is the single largest expanse of dry deciduous Anogeissus pendula Forest left intact in India. Such forests were found all along the North and Central Aravalis but in the last few decades they have been badly degraded and right now this Tiger Reserve is their last strong hold. In Ranthambore the bio diversity is made even richer by the intrusion of the Vindhyan hill system.
The areas surrounding the Tiger reserve have been totally deforested and as a result, the Ranthambore tiger reserve is now an "ecological island surrounded by farmlands and overgrazed pastures." It is is home to over 40 species of mammals, 320 species of birds, over 40 species of reptiles and over 300 species of plants. (Ref: Dr. Dharmendra Khandal - Bio-diversity of Ranthambore 2004).
Panthera tigris tigris - the Indian or the Bengal Tiger is the flagship species of Rantambhore and right now it is the only place in Rajasthan where tigers exist. In that sense it is on the westernmost extent of the tiger's distribution on the earth. If the tigers are to spread to the other surrounding forests of the Aravalis the Ranthambhore is the only "nursery" that can make it possible.
The Ranthambore tiger reserve is also a crucial link and wildlife corridor between a chain of Protected Areas from Dholpur district in the North-East to the Kota district in the South-West. In this chain of Protected areas, not only does Ranthambhore have the highest bio-diversity but it is the only Protected area that has large and viable populations of mega fauna.
This Project tiger reserve is an invaluable watershed for the surrounding areas, a fact that is made more significant considering that the surrounding areas have low annual rainfall. Ranthambhore is an important catchment area for the river Chambal, which in turn, is an important river in the Gangetic system. The reserve is also the most important catchment for a large number of reservoirs that surround it. It also plays a very important role in recharging the ground water of the area. These reservoirs and the ground water are the only source of water for entire surrounding area. The river Gambhir that flows out of the Reserve is the most important source of water for the wetlands of Bharatpur district.
The terrain of Ranthambhore tiger reserve is mostly rugged and hilly and is intimately related to the Great boundary fault.
The hills to the northwest of fault-line are the Aravalis and typically have ridges on one side and gentle slope on the other. This Aravali tract is highly undulating except for a few small plateaus and some small valleys. These valleys are teeming with wildlife and are the richest wildlife areas in the entire reserve. Most of Ranthambore national park's tigers are found in these valleys. The highest point of this tract is Gazella peak, 507 meters above M.S.L. The lowest altitude of this tract is 244 meters above M.S.L. at Bodal. Streams flowing in northern tract form the catchment of the river Banas and streams flowing in southern tract drain directly in the river Chambal. Most of the streams are very short lived but the streams facing sharp ridges maybe perennial, as the folded impervious rocky strata beneath, does not permit the water to percolate.
The hills south west of Great boundary fault are the Vindhyas. The sand stone beds of these hills are flat-topped and form extensive table lands known as "Dangs". These dangs rise abruptly from flat ground and have sandstone ridges running continuously along their edges. At places, small and short-lived streams have eroded deep, long and narrow gorges that are locally known as "Khohs". The khohs are cool and retain moisture even in the hot summer and are main wild life areas in all the parts of Project tiger reserve. The Kela Devi sanctuary has some of the longest and the widest khos.
The ravines are prominent feature of both the rivers, the Chambal and the Banas. These ravines are formed due to sandy nature of the soil along the banks of the rivers. Along the Chambal, the ravines are as deep as 50 mts and extend up to 8 kms in length. The ravines are very important for the lesser fauna.