Saturday, October 17, 2015

Guindy National Park, Chennai

Guindy National Park, Chennai
Guindy National Park is a 2.70 km2 (1.04 sq mi) Protected area of Tamil Nadu, located in ChennaiSouth India, is the 8th Smallest National Park of India and one of the very few national parks situated inside a city. The park is an extension of the grounds surrounding Raj Bhavan, formerly known as the 'Guindy Lodge', the official residence of the Governor of Tamil Nadu, India. It extends deep inside the governor's estate, enclosing beautiful forests, scrub lands, lakes and streams.
The park has a role in both ex-situ and in-situ conservation and is home to 400 blackbucks, 2,000 spotted deers, 24 jackals, a wide variety of snakesgeckostortoises and over 130 species of birds, 14 species of mammals, over 60 species of butterflies and spiders each, a wealth of different invertebrates-grasshoppersants, termitescrabssnailsslugsscorpionsmites, earth worms, millipedes, and the like. These are free-ranging fauna and live with the minimal of interference from human beings. The only major management activity is protection as in any other in-situ conservation area. The park attracts more than 700,000 visitors every year.

It has the rarest vegetation type – the tropical dry evergreen vegetation. It is one of the smallest national parks and is situated right in the heart of a metropolitan city - Chennai. But perhaps the best of all is that it has a role in both ex-situ and in-situ conservation. The park boasts of over 350 species of plants, and forms a natural destination for botanists.
About 22 acres of GNP has been carved out into a zoo for ex-situ conservation. This entails keeping different species in captivity on view to public. Children’s park - the zoo was started with the idea of providing children a natural environment, to educate them about animals and create awareness on conservation. The animals have bred well in recent years. In children’s park include black buck, sambar, spotted deer, porcupine, hyena, jackal, python, grey pelican, night heron, cormorant, cockatiel, mongoose, bonnet monkey, and common langur. 
With the aim of spreading awareness, nature camps are conducted for school students taking inside the national park and told of the importance of the bio-diversity found there in. There is also a new interpretation center giving information about the bio diversity found inside the park.

The Park is home to garden birds as the estuary at Adyar which has mud and sand banks finds favour with a lot of the exotic variety.
Guindy Park, the earlier name of this National Park, was originally a game reserve. In the early 1670s, a garden space was carved out of the Guindy forest and a residence called the Guindy Lodge was built by Governor William Langhorne (1672–1678), which had helped make St Thomas Mount a salubrious place for rest and recreation. The remaining of the forest area was owned by a British citizen named Gilbert Rodericks from whom it was purchased by the government in 1821 for a sum of ₹ 35,000. The original area of 505 ha was established as a Reserve Forest in 1910. Chital (spotted deer) were introduced into the park probably after 1945. Between 1961 and 1977, about 172 ha of the forest, primarily from the Raj Bhavan, were transferred to various government departments in order to build educational institutions and memorials.
In 1958, a portion of the forest area was transferred to the Union Education Ministry for establishing the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. In the same year, another portion of the land was transferred to the Forest Department for creating the Guindy Deer Park and Children's Park at the instance of the then prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. Memorials for Rajaji and Kamaraj were built in 1974 and 1975, respectively, from parcels of land acquired from the Raj Bhavan.
In 1977, the forest area was transferred to the Tamil Nadu Forest Department. In 1978, the whole of the remaining area, popularly known then as the Guindy Deer Park, was declared a national park. It was walled off from the adjacent Raj Bhavan and Indian Institute of Technology Madras Campus in the late 1980s.
The Guindy National Park, Raj Bhavan and IIT-Madras habitat complex has historically enjoyed a certain degree of protection and has continued to support some of the last remnants of the natural habitats that typify the natural range of plant and animal biodiversity of the Coromandel-Circar coastal plains in the northeastern Tamil Nadu. The ecosystem consists of the rare tropical dry evergreen scrub and thorn forests receiving about 1200 mm of rainfall annually.
This vegetation has been reclassified as the Albizia amara Boiv Community. The region’s physiognomy occurs as discontinuous or dense scrub-woodlands and thickets, containing species such as introduced Acacia planifrons, Clausena dentata shrubs, palmyrah palm (Borassus flabellifer), Randia dumetorum, Randia malabarica, Carissa spinarumAcacia chundra, exotic cactus Cereus Peruviana and Glycosmis mauritiana.
The park has a tropical dissymmetric climate. The mean annual temperatures are 32.9 °C (maximum) and 24.3 °C (minimum). Rainfall ranges from 522 to 2,135 mm, with an average annual rainfall of 1,215 mm. The summer season in April and May determines the peculiar vegetation of the Coromandel-Circar coast. Between June and December, wet season prevails, with dry season occurring between January and March. The area also has a cleared meadow called Polo Field measuring about 230 × 160 m. The park also has a lake known as the 'Tangal Eri'.
The park is protected by a perimeter wall for a length of 9.5 km. There is an extensive network of roads and trails. The road network covers about 14 km within the park. The park has two large tanks, namely, Kathan Kollai (KK Tank) and Appalam Kolam (AK Tank), in addition to two ponds, which usually dry up during summer. The presence of the park and the surrounding green areas resulted in the byname, the green lungs of Chennai, for the Adyar–Guindy area.
The park has the remnants of a game reserve established during the days of British rule and there is a small portion of tropical dry evergreen forest that made the Circar-Coromandel Coast. The present park is only a skeleton of the dry evergreens and thorn shrubs that made it a great forest once upon a time. There are scrub lands, forests, streams and lakes within the Park and is enmeshed deep inside the Raj Bhavan compound. There are about 350 species of plants consisting of shrubs, climbers, herbs and grasses and 24 species of trees including Sugar Apple, Wood Apple and Neem. Approximately one sixth of the land is grass land as this is preserved as the habitat for the Blackbucks. The deer in the park lives off the shrubs and bushes. The trees are perfect habitat for the birds. In the Children’s Park, there is a fossilized tree specimen which is stated to be more than 20 million years old.

This flora provides an ideal habitat for over 150 species of birds. About one-sixth of the park has been left as open grassland to preserve that habitat for blackbucks. Though both the species of blackbuck and spotted deer have their natural habitat in grassland, the spotted deer prefer bushes and can adjust in land covered with shrubbery.
The Park is a favourite place for water birds and the woodland variety of birds like the Pacific Golden Plover, western reef heron, Swinhoe’s snipe and sanderling which comes to roost in this park in winter. There are 130 species of  garden variety birds that make themselves at home in this Park  and there are also birds with exotic names like the blue faced malkoha , Indian pitta, black baza, Malayan night heron, eye browed thrush, ashy minivet and the long legged buzzard.

The Park has 24 Jackals, 400 Blackbucks, 2000 spotted deer, small Indian civet, palm civet, bonnet macaque, hedgehog, common mongoose, the three striped squirrel, bats, rodents and reptiles like snakes and many other insects and animals kept in confinements. There are enclosures within the park where King Cobras, pythons saw scaled vipers and other reptiles reside within touching distance of the children’s park. There are other animals and amphibians like the crocodiles, which have been put up in enclosures and are protected. There are 60 species of butterflies and spiders. The place is also a wonderland of invertebrates that consists of caterpillars, grasshoppers, ants, termites, crabs, snails, slugs, scorpions, mites, earthworms and millipedes and grasshoppers.
There are over 14 species of mammals including blackbuckchital or spotted deerjackalsmall Indian civet, common palm civet, bonnet macaquehyenapangolinhedgehog, common mongoose and three-striped palm squirrel. The park also has black-naped hare and several species of bats and rodents.

The near threatened blackbuck, considered the flagship species of the park, was introduced in 1924 by Lord Willington and has seen a population decline in recent times. While blackbucks are a native faunal element of the park, chitals were introduced into the park from the Government House on Mount Road when Raj Bhavan was developed, probably in the late 1940s, although the exact date is not known. Some albino male blackbucks were also introduced by the Maharaja of Bhavnagar. Per the census conducted on 29 February 2004, the population of Blackbuck was 405 (10 spotted in the IIT campus). The chital population in the Park, however, appears to have been steady or even increased since their introduction into the area many decades ago. Per the census conducted on 29 February 2004, the population of the spotted deer was 2,650. Of these, 1,743 were female and 336 were fawns. The census was taken in the Guindy National Park and the adjoining areas of the Indian Institute of Technology and the Raj Bhavan campus using King's transect method, which would only reveal the numbers close to the actual figure.

The park has over 150 species of birds including grey partridgecrow pheasantparrotquailparadise fly-catcherblack-winged kite, honey buzzardpariah kite, golden-backed Wood pecker, yellow-wattled lapwingred-wattled lapwing, blue-faced malkoha, shrikesAsian koelminivetsmuniasparakeet, tailor bird, robindrongo, and stone curlew. Bird watchers anticipate migratory birds here like teals, garganeyspochardsmedium egretslarge egretsnight heronspond herons and open-billed storks every fall season.

The park is home to about 9 species of amphibians. There are also many kinds of reptiles, including saw-scaled viper and the fan-throated lizard. Some species of tortoise and turtles—especially the endangered star tortoiselizardsgeckoschameleons and the common Indian monitor lizard—are found here, as well as a large variety of insects including 60 species of spiders and 60 species of butterflies.
Guindy Snake Park and Children's Park
Chennai Snake Park Trust
The Chennai Snake Park Trust is a not-for-profit NGO constituted in 1972 by herpetologist Romulus Whitaker and is India's first reptile park. Also known as the Guindy Snake Park, it is located next to the Children's Park in the Guindy National Park campus. Located on the former home of the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, the park is home to a wide range of snakes such as adders, pythons, vipers, cobras and other reptiles. The park gained statutory recognition as a medium zoo from the Central Zoo Authority in 1995.

The park, formerly known as the Madras Snake Park Trust (MSPT), was established by the American-born naturalized Indian herpetologist Romulus Whitaker, who, before coming to India in 1967, had worked with the Miami Serpentarium at FloridaUnited States. On his arrival to India, he established a small snake park at Selaiyur village, a suburb of Chennai. In 1972, he obtained a piece of land in Guindy on lease from the Forest Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu and, with the help of a group of naturalists from Chennai, set up a bigger park and soon constituted a trust to manage its affairs.
The Board of Trustees consisted of Doris N. Chattopadhyaya, Harry Miller, M. V. Rajendran, S. Meenakshisundaram, M. Krishnan, Romulus Whitaker and A. N. Jagannatha Rao. In 1976 and 1988, ex officio trustees from various government institutions were added to the board. The park underwent various renovations after 1994, including an aquarium for sea snakes and turtles and restoration of enclosures and additional facilities.
In 1997, the park was renamed as the Chennai Snake Park, following the renaming of the city of Madras in 1996.
Organizational structure
The chairman of the board of trustees is also the chief executive of the park holding a part-time and honorary position. The director, assisted by an environmental education officer, heads the full-time staff constituting 20 employees. There are eight animal keepers in the park, of whom five are from the Irula tribe, traditionally known for their occupation of snake-catching.
The stated objectives of the park include the following:
·     To maintain and display a captive collection of snakes and other reptiles as a means of eliciting public interest in them and prompting the public to empathize with them.
· To promote knowledge among the public on reptiles and amphibians and dispel the widespread erroneous beliefs about snakes in particular and, to this end, conduct awareness programmes targeting school children primarily and bring out low-priced publications with technical, semi-technical and popular contents on reptiles and amphibians.
·      To aid and assist research on reptiles and amphibians including the conduct of surveys to assess their status and distribution.
·   To undertake captive breeding of endangered species of snakes and other reptiles.
·   To canvas public support for the protection and conservation of reptiles and amphibians.
The park
The park covers an area of 1 acre in the Guindy National Park campus. The land is taken on a long-term lease agreement with the Government of Tamil Nadu on a nominal rental. Accessibility to the park is provided by a small road linked to Sardar Vallabhai Patel Road. The park attracts about 700,000 visitors annually, of whom one fifth are children, generating a revenue of about ₹ 6 million.
As of 2010, the park exhibits a total of 39 species, including 23 species of Indian snakes, all 3 Indian species and 4 exotic species of crocodiles, 3 species of Indian tortoises and turtles and 6 species of the larger Indian lizards.
The snakes are housed in glass-fronted enclosures and the crocodilians and the larger lizards are housed in open-air enclosures protected by parapet walls and wire mesh. The park also has an aquarium for water snakes and turtles. All the enclosures have signages giving information in English and Tamil.
On 16 January 2010, the country's first-of-its-kind Digital Infotainment–based visitor’s interpretation centre with static and electronically aided moving mode displays with information on snakes in English and Tamil, using six 32" LCD screens, was opened for public.
There is a small auditorium with a ceiling-mounted projector, wall-mounted screen and a touch-screen kiosk for conducting classes for visiting students. There are also facilities for projecting from the kiosk to the wall-mounted screen. The park has a museum of preserved specimens of reptiles and amphibians and a library with a stock of books and journals on reptiles and related subjects.
The park also demonstrates venom extraction from snakes. From May 1976, the centre publishes a journal named Hamadryad on reptiles and amphibians, renamed as Cobra since 1990. Originally a quarterly, the journal was made a half-yearly since January 2010. The centre also publishes various books on the subject.
The centre remains closed on Tuesdays.
Captive breeding
The park, along with the Arignar Anna Zoological ParkMadras Crocodile Bank and the Mysore Zoo, is slated to become a nodal point for captive breeding of endangered pythons in the country, especially the Indian rock python (Python molurus) and reticulated python (Python reticulatus). The park also breeds mugger crocodiles.
The park is one of the participating zoos approved by the Central Zoo Authority for the conservation of rock python.
In 2008-10, the park's research lab implemented a research for developing a snake repellent to protect army personnel from snakes commonly found in desert regions. This is being funded by a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) grant of ₹ 900,000.
In September 2010, the Trust sanctioned a 5-year survey of the herpetofauna of the Southern Eastern Ghats in Tamil Nadu. The park also undertakes reptile surveys in various other parts of the state.
Other activities
Initially, the process of extracting venom from snakes for pharmaceutical companies to prepare anti-venom drugs was undertaken by the park. However, after the government imposed a ban on selling snake skins, this task has been given to the Irulas Co-operative Society at the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust.
The park conducts various outreach programmes for schools in and around Chennai on snakes and other reptiles and their environment and one-day workshops for personnel of the forest department and fire and rescue services department to train them in identifying snakes, rescuing them from human habitations and translocating them to wild habitats.
The park also conducts regular demonstrations and lectures on identification of some of the principal species of venomous and non-venomous snakes, the need to protect them, ways of preventing them from getting into human habitations and translocating them from such habitations, treatment of snakebite and so forth.
On 11 July 2009, eight sand boas (Eryx johnii) in the park were stolen from their enclosures located close to the quarantine block and the staff quarters. The theft occurred in the night and was noticed the next morning. Incidentally, three sand boas were stolen from their enclosure at the Arignar Anna Zoological Park the previous night. However, two were recovered 3 days later, after they were found hiding in the premises.
Children’s Park
For ex-situ conservation, about 22 acres (8.9 ha) of the Guindy National Park has been carved out into a park known as the Children's Park and play area at the northeast corner of the national park with a collection of animals and birds. The Children's Park gained statutory recognition as a medium zoo from the Central Zoo Authority in 1995.
Animals in the Children’s Park include black buck, sambar, spotted deer, porcupine, jackal, python, grey pelican, night heron, cormorantcockatielparrotmongoosecommon peafowl, crocodile, common otterrhesus monkeybonnet monkey and common langur.
The Children's Park also exhibits a fossilized tree specimen which is estimated to be about 20 million years old and a statue of a Tyrannosaurus at the entrance.
The Children's Park and the Snake Park have separate entrances and independent entry fees. Drinking water, vendors and catering are available. The entrance lies on the busy Sardar Patel Road next to the Adyar Cancer Institute.
Visitor information
There is a new interpretation center about the biodiversity of the park. Entry into this protected reserve is restricted, and visitors can go into the core area only when escorted by a forest ranger from the Forests Department. The rear southeast edge of the park adjoins the campus of Indian Institute of Technology. Along its northern fringes on the Sardar Patel road are the Cancer Institute, CLRI campus, the Anna University, the Raj Bhavan and spaces allotted for the Gandhi Mandapam, Kamaraj Memorial and Rajaji Memorial.
There are also memorials to India's great leaders, Mahatma Gandhi, K. Kamaraj and C.Rajagopalachari, Bakthavatchalam in the vicinity.
The park organizes Lecture-demonstrations regularly in languages like Tamil, Hindi and English. Though the park itself offers nothing much for a real wildlife enthusiast, the Snake Park is interesting. The park sums up a favourite picnic destination for the entire family especially school going children.
Park Timings & Fees
The Park is open on all days from 9.00 am to 5.30 pm. It takes three hours to see the park.
The visiting timings at the Snake Park is from 9.00 am to 5.30 pm Children's Park is from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm and is open on all days except Tuesday which is declared as a holiday.
Entry Fee:
·        Below 10 years - Free, 11 to above Rs.5/-, School Children (Age 5 to 12 years) from Government and aided Schools - Rs.2.00,
·        School Children from Private Schools (Age 5 to 12 years) - Rs.10.00.
·        Adult: 15.00.
Still Camera:
·        Rs.10, Handy Camera / Video Camera - Rs.75,
·        Charges for documentary educational films using Handy camera and Video Camera - Rs.2000
·        In Snake Park Still -Rs. 25/-, Movie - 150/-
Parking vehicle charges:
·        Heavy vehicle: 50/-,
·        Motor car/van Rs. 15/-;
·        Motor Cycle : Rs. 5/-
Accommodation & Restaurants
There are small restaurants and vendors around the park. Chennai is a metropolitan city and there are many hotels within the city that fits in the pocket of any traveler. Visitors can log on to, or any other popular sites to reserve their accommodation at reduced rates.
Wildlife Warden (Adyar),
50, IV Main Road, Gandhi Nagar,
Adyar, Chennai – 600 020
Wildlife Warden (Teynampet), 
259 Anna Salai, DMS Compound, IV Floor,
Teynampet, Chennai 600 006
Ph. 044-24321471
The Park is within the city of Chennai and the nearest place is Laxmi Nagar.
Chennai Egmore railway station is 9 km away. Chennai Central railway station is 12 km away. Chennai International Airport is 8 km away.
There are many buses that pass in front of the park and transportation is never a problem in this area. There are separate passes for the snake park and the children’s park.
The entrance to the Park is on Sardar Patel Road. The nearest railway station is Kasturi Bhai Nagar MRTS, which is less than a kilometer from the Park.
The Guindy Railway station where the suburban trains run is within 1 km.