According to estimates, there are around 300 plant species in the Ranthambore National Park. Due to its proximity to the Thar, the region receives very scanty rainfalls and so the vegetation in the park mainly comprises of the dry deciduous type. The Reserve comprises of shallow perennial lakes, steep hills, gentle slopes, plateaus, narrow valleys, etc. and as such a variety of plant communities or associations are found.
The most noticeable tree in the Ranthambore National Park is the ‘Dhok’ (Anogeissus pendula). Being the dominant species it constitutes about 80% of the vegetation cover and is found on hill slopes and valleys and maintains luxuriant growth due to better soil formation and water holding capacity. The leaves of the Dhok trees form a favorite diet for the Deer, Nilgai and Antelope. Its height is approximately 10-15 meters. The growth of Anogeissus pendula is generally stunted on plateaus where the residual soil is poor and shallow.
Other most prominent trees in the park are the Banyan (Ficus bengalensis) and Pipal (Ficus religiosa). Both are worshipped and also have medicinal uses. In fact, the second largest Banyan tree of India stands just behind the Jogi Mahal, the hunting lodge in Ranthambore national Park. The Neem (Azadirachta indiaca) tree, which is universally known for its medicinal properties, grows abundantly in the Ranthambore National Park.
Among the fruit trees found in the Ranthambore, the most prominent include the Mango(Magnifera indica), Jamun (Syzygium cumini) also known as the Indian blackberry, Ber (Zizyphus mauritania), and Tamarind (Tamarindicus indica- popularly called Imli) known for its pulpy fruit used in the preparation of pickles. In addition, there are many trees such as Chhila (Butea monosperma, the flame of the forest), which sets the forest alights with the bright orange red color, offering a spectacular sight to park’s visitors.
Other important flora in the Ranthambore include the Babul (Accasia nilotica), Gurjan (Lannea coromandelica), Gum (Sterculia urens), Kadam (Authocephalus cadamba), Khajur (Phoenix sylvestris), Khair (Accacia catechu) This is one of the most common trees in Ranthambore and is regarded across north India as a very valuable tree, since extracts from its bark are the mixture that make the paste katha for paans. The bark is frequently chewed by porcupines who seem to have an addiction to this tree in Ranthambore. Kakera (Flacourtia indica), Karel (Capparis decidua), Khimi (Manilkara hexandra), Kikar (Acacia nilotica), Mahua (Madhuca indica), Kulu (Sterculia urens), Ronj (Acacia leucophloea), Salar (Boswellia serrata) and Tendu (Diospyrous melanoxylon) are some of the other trees found here. The leaves of the Tendu tree are much in demand for making bidis (hand rolled cigarettes), the timber is also valuable. Tendu trees are found in large numbers near Sultanpur-ki-kui and beyond. A favorite fruit of sloth bears. Khus grass (Vetivaria zizznioides) has roots that yield an aromatic oil known as vetiveria oil , a large quantity of which is exported from India . The roots are woven into curtains , and when moistened they cool and scent the air at the same time. The edges of the lakes in Ranthambore are full of Khus grass. This is the grass that is used to make boxes and containers that are available in the old part of Sawai Madhopur town. The aquatic flora in the Ranthambore National Park includes a variety of lovely flowers such as lotus and water lilies
Ranthambore’s unique climatic and vegetation features have given rise to forests that are dry and open with little and stunted ground cover. This makes wildlife viewing relatively easier on the safari. Ranthambore is virtually an island rich in fauna. Tiger, at the apex of the food chain is the lord of the kingdom in a subtle way. Solitary by nature, it operates in the stealth. Therefore tiger sightings, frequent as they are, are always a matter of chance. However even evidences of tiger’s activities are very exciting. Other kinds of cats found in Ranthambore are Leopard, Caracal, Leopard cat, Fishing cat and Jungle cat. The other large predators include Sloth Bear, Striped Hyena, Jackal, Desert fox, Palm civet, common mongoose, crocodile, python etc. There are two species of antlers the spotted deer (chital), and Sambhar deer and two kinds of antelopes namely the Indian Gazelle (chinkara ) and the Bluebull ( Nilgai ).
Besides tiger, there are many other animals to observe, understand and enjoy. Elegant and graceful spotted deer, huge sambhar deer, crocodiles basking around the lakes, vultures soaring in the sky, Serpent eagles scanning the ground from its perch or the kaleidoscope of waterfowl at the pools are all the interest for a visitor with sensitivity. Ranthambore is a great experience in totality and Jungle safari will enhance your experience in wildlife. Ranthambore is also rich in bird life with around 300 species of birds. Infact for a keen bird watcher Ranthambore and the surrounding area is a paradise. Some interesting resident species of birds are large Cormorant, Painted Spurfowl, Sarus Crane, Bronzed winged Jacana, Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Nightjar, Painted Sandgrouse, Great horned owl and many more regular winter migrants which come from their nesting ground north of Himalayas to Ranthambore and surrounding areas.
Habitat wise distribution of wildlife of Ranthambore
Dangs: These are flat tabletop plateaus, surrounded by bold vertical cliffs. The soil depth is very shallow and there is hardly any water except in shallow constructed ponds and some moisture in depressions. In the summer season the dangs look deserted due to dry leafless pendula (Dhok) trees and lack of water. The main animals of the area are Chinkara, Nilgai, Hare, Fox, Jackal and Hyena. Avifauna is represented by Seed eating birds, Larks, Francolins, Quails, Sand grouse and Thicknees etc. During rainy season Dangs are lush green with small water pools every where and the ungulates like Chital, Sambar and Wild boar visit the areas to feed on the profuse green fodder. Carnivore like Leopards, Smaller cats and Tigers follow them.
Khohs: These are deep rocky nallahs (seasonal streams) cut up in the dangs. They are characterized by steep rocky slopes and cliffs, flat bottoms with deep and fertile soil. A number of water pools are found in the bottom and small perennial springs on slopes, even during the very hot and dry summers. Khohs are cool, moist and alive throughout the year. The khohs are the main wild life areas of reserve, especially outside the national park. Nearly all the species of mammals are found in these, khohs. The avifauna is represented by Peafowl, Minivets, Flycatcher, Tits, Orioles and various other birds. All the species visit the upper plateau or dang area during night in search of food and especially during monsoons when khohs are wet and full of tormenting insects.
Streams: These are areas where water flows and remains for a longer period than other areas. These constitute the drainage of watersheds and are found in folds of hills. Most of these finally join Banas and /or Chambal. In these areas, even in the hot summer when other areas are dry and hardly have any natural water, some small pools exist. The area around the pools are characterized by a belt of green trees in the summer. These networks of streams are life line of wild life in this dry deciduous area. Such areas are home of all species of wildlife, except Chinkara, which is essentially an animal of dry land. All animals are found within riparian area, except during rainy season when streams are fast flowing. From February till the onset of monsoon the riparian areas are extensively used by all the wild life.
Valleys: The terrain of reserve is hilly and there are large numbers of valleys in the area. These areas lie between two hills with flat bottom and rich soil and as a result the vegetation is good. Some water remains in the nallahs in small water pools and provide sustenance to wild life during hot dry summer. Valleys are rich in wild life and almost all the species are found here. Tigers, Sambhar, Chital, Wild boar, smaller cats, Caracal, Chinkara, Nilgai etc. are present throughout the year. In the valleys some good grasslands are also available which provide ideal cover for tigers and other smaller cats, along with ground birds. The avifauna is represented by Peacock, Partridges, Green Pigeons, Parakeets, Sparrows, Prinias, Warblers etc
Ravines: Both banks of the river Chambal and Banas are cut up by these ravines due to the sandy and easily erodible soil of these areas. These ravines are up to 50 meters deep with precipitous narrow gullies. Major portion of the ravine areas have been levelled and ploughed by the villagers, but some areas are still wild. There are a few water holes in the ravines but since the rivers are close by this is not a major limiting factor for the wildlife. Since the area is flooded during monsoon and remains dry during summer with water available only in the river, the animal density of the area is generally lower. The main species are Chinkara, Nilgai, Wild boar, Hare, Hyena and many kinds of lesser mammals. The avifauna is represented by Peacock, River birds, Francolins, Sand grouse etc
Wetlands: There are a few areas, within the reserve, where water remains standing throughout the year. Due to the presence of water these areas become the centre of activity of animals both wild and domestic. These water bodies contain a variety of aquatic fauna and flora, according to the depth of the water bodies. Along with aquatic fauna which includes turtle, crocodiles, fish, water birds, frogs, crabs and other small creatures, a lot of terrestrial fauna also use wetlands. The aquatic fauna constitutes an integral and important part of this ecosystem. After monsoons, the area of the water body is at its maximum and during winter the water line starts receding and fresh land comes out of water. During summer season when the surrounding areas are dry and there is no green fodder or grass the newly sprouted green grass in the area available due to receding of water attracts Sambhar, Cheetal and Wild boar. Sambhar and Wild boar also feed on aquatic vegetation. Invariably, the large predators follow them and these areas become main centre of activity of tigers.