Jim Corbett National Park is the oldest national park in India and was established in 1936 as Hailey National Park to protect the endangered Bengal tiger. It is located in Nainital district of Uttarakhand and was named after Jim Corbett who played a key role in its establishment. The park was the first to come under the Project Tiger initiative.
The park has sub-Himalayan belt geographical and ecological characteristics. An ecotourism destination, it contains 488 different species of plants and a diverse variety of fauna. The increase in tourist activities, among other problems, continues to present a serious challenge to the park’s ecological balance.
Corbett has been a haunt for tourists and wildlife lovers for a long time.[when?] Tourism activity is only allowed in selected areas of Corbett Tiger Reserve so that people get an opportunity to see its landscape and wildlife. In recent years[when?] the number of people coming here has increased dramatically. Presently,[when?] every season more than 70,000 visitors come to the park.
Corbett National Park comprises 520.8 km2 (201.1 sq mi) area of hills, riverine belts, marshy depressions, grasslands and a large lake. The elevation ranges from 1,300 to 4,000 ft (400 to 1,220 m). Winter nights are cold but the days are bright and sunny. It rains from July to September.
Dense moist deciduous forest mainly consists of sal, haldu, peepal, rohini and mango trees. Forest covers almost 73% of the park, 10% of the area consists of grasslands. It houses around 110 tree species, 50 species of mammals, 580 bird species and 25 reptile species.
The weather in the park is temperate compared to most other protected areas of India. The temperature may vary from 5 °C (41 °F) to 30 °C (86 °F) during the winter and some mornings are foggy. Summer temperatures normally do not rise above 40 °C (104 °F).Rainfall ranges from light during the dry season to heavy during the monsoons.
Though the main focus is protection of wildlife, the reserve management has also encouraged ecotourism.In 1993, a training course covering natural history, visitor management and park interpretation was introduced to train nature guides. A second course followed in 1995 which recruited more guides for the same purpose.This allowed the staff of the reserve, previously preoccupied with guiding the visitors, to carry out management activities uninterrupted.Additionally, the Indian government has organised workshops on ecotourism in Corbett National Park and Garhwal region to ensure that the local citizens profit from tourism while the park remains protected.
patil & Joshi (1997) consider summer (April–June) to be the best season for Indian tourists to visit the park while recommending the winter months (November–January) for foreign tourists.According to Riley & Riley (2005): “Best chances of seeing a tiger to come late in the dry season- April to mid-June-and go out with mahouts and elephants for several days.”
As early as 1991, the Corbett National Park played host to 3237 tourist vehicles carrying 45,215 visitors during the main tourist seasons between 15 November and 15 June. This heavy influx of tourists has led to visible stress signs on the natural ecosystem.Excessive trampling of soil due to tourist pressure has led to reduction in plant species and has also resulted in reduced soil moisture.The tourists have increasingly used fuel wood for cooking. This is a cause of concern as this fuel wood is obtained from the nearby forests, resulting in greater pressure on the forest ecosystem of the park.Additionally, tourists have also caused problems by making noise, littering and causing disturbances in general.
In 2007, the naturalist and photographer Kahini Ghosh Mehta made the first comprehensive travel guide on Corbett National Park. The film, titled Wild Saga of Corbett, shows how tourists can contribute to conservation efforts.