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Important Natural Heritage

  • Bhitarkanika National Park

    Bhitarkanika is one of the major mangrove ecosystems of the world being the second largest of its kind. It has much significance with regard to ecological, geomorphologic and biological background which includes mangrove forests, rivers, creeks, estuaries, back water, accreted land and mud flats. Bhitarkanika mangrove swamp lies in the river delta of the Brahmani, Baitarani and Dhamra rivers. Mangroves are salt tolerant, complex and dynamic eco-systems that occur in tropical and subtropical inter-tidal regions. 62 out of 63 types of mangrove plant species are present in Mangrove ecosystem of Bhitarkanika. 215 species of birds such as Asian open bill egrets, Black Ibis, Cormorants, and Darters are also found. Mangroves serve as the ecological hub of biological activity for estuarine ecosystems. Mangroves maintain the stability of the aquatic ecosystem by improving coastal water quality, protecting coastlines, sediment trapping and erosion prevention. Because of its rich avifauna and biodiversity, Bhitarkanika was declared as wildlife sanctuary in 1975 over an area of 672 square kilometers. The Sanctuary comprising Mangrove Forests meandering rivers, innumerable criss-crossed tidal inundated creeks provide last refuge to the already endangered salt water Crocodile (Crocodilus porosus). The recent census of December 2013-14 gives the numbers of Salt water crocodiles in various stages as below-

    Hatchling Yearling Juvenile Sub-adult Adult Total
    504 387 307 142 304 1644
    Besides estuarine Crocodile, the Sanctuary is rich in avifauna, mammalian and reptilian population. Theses Mangrove forests are good habitat for King Cobra, Indian Python and Water Monitor Lizard. A large number of water birds visit Bagagahan heronry which is an area of approximately 4 hectare within the Bhitarkanika Forest Block near Suajore creek. Considering the unique bio-diversity of the core area of the sanctuary, an area of 145 km2. has been notified as Bhitarkanika National Park in 1998.

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  • Chilika

    Chilka Lake is a brackish water lagoon spread over Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Odisha state on the east coast of India, at the mouth of the Daya River, flowing into the Bay of Bengal, covering an area of over 1,100 km2. It is the largest coastal lagoon in India and the second largest lagoon in the World. A fourth century legend, often told to explain the birth of Chilika, states that the pirate king, Raktabahu planned to attack Puri with a huge fleet of ships. To avoid detection, he stealthily anchored out of sight, off the mouth to the sea. The deception was revealed by ships' refuse floating to the shore, thus warning the town's people, who escaped with all their possessions. Raktabahu felt betrayed when he found an abandoned town and directed his fury towards the sea that had betrayed him. The sea parted to let the army march in, then surged back, drowned the army and formed the present lake. The lagoon hosts over 160 species of birds in the peak migratory season. Birds from as far as the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Aral Sea and other remote parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Mongolia, Central and southeast Asia, Ladakh and Himalayas come here. These birds travel great distances; migratory birds probably follow much longer routes than the straight lines, possibly up to 12,000 km, to reach Chilika Lake. The census of birds (winter count) in different years given below

    Year No. of birds Year No. of birds
    2007 839529 2011 804452
    2008 892898 2012 883060
    2009 890813 2013 877322
    2010 924578 2014 719262
    In 1981, Chilika Lake was designated the first Indian wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. In 1992, the Government of Odisha, concerned by the degradation of the lake's ecosystem and cognizant of significant numbers of people who were dependent upon the lake's resources, set up the Chilika Development Authority (CDA). The CDA was set up for restoration and overall development of the lake under the Indian Societies Registration Act as a parastatal body under the administrative jurisdiction of the Forest and Environment Department.

    Nalaban Bird Sanctuary- Nalbana Island is the core area of the Ramsar designated wetlands of Chilika Lake. Nalbana means a weed covered island In Odia. It is a major island in the center of the lake and has an area of 15.53 km2. The island gets completely submerged during the monsoon season. As the monsoon recedes in the winter, lake levels decrease and the island is gradually exposed, birds flock to the island in large numbers to feed on its extensive mudflats. Nalbana was notified in 1987 and declared a bird sanctuary in 1973.

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  • Similipal Biosphere Reserve

    Simlipal is situated in between 210 28' to 220 08' North Latitude and 860 04' to 860 37' East longitude in the district of Mayurbhanj in the state of Odisha. Simlipal derives its name from the abundance of Semuli or red silk cotton trees that bloom abundantly in the locality. It has its importance since antiquity for being the biggest single forest block in Odisha having an area of about 2750 sq. km. Simlipal elephant reserve originated mainly as a hunting ground for the royal class. It was formally designated a tiger reserve in 1956 and under Project Tiger in May 1973. "Mugger Crocodile Scheme" was started in the year 1979 at Ramatirtha, Jashipur. The Government of Odisha declared Simlipal as a Wildlife sanctuary in 1979 with an area of 2,200 square kilometres (850 sq mi). Later in 1980, the state government proposed 303 square kilometres (117 sq mi) of the sanctuary as a national park. Further in 1986, area of the national park was increased to 845.70 square kilometres (326.53 sq mi). Government of India declared Simlipal as a biosphere reserve in 1994. UNESCO added this national park to its list of Biosphere Reserves in May 2009. The park has an area of 845.70 square kilometres (326.53 sq mi) and has some beautiful waterfalls like Joranda and Barehipani. Simlipal is home to ninety-nine Royal Bengal Tigers, 432 Wild elephants. Besides Simlipal is famous for Gaurs (Indian Bisons), Chausingha, as well as an orchidarium. With wide range of rain falls and edaphic variations, vegetation type ranges from dry deciduous to moist evergreen forests which is suitable to different species of flora and fauna. Similipal is a blend of Western Ghat, Eastern Ghat and Sub-Himalayan species with 1076 flowering species and 96 species of orchids. Similipal is home to a range of wild animals including 55 species of mammals, 304 species of birds, 20 species of amphibians, 62 species of reptiles and 37 species of fishes. Average mean elevation of Similipal is 900 meters. Several rivers like Budhabalanga, Khairi, Salandi, Palpala, etc. originate from the hills and make the spot a visitors paradise.

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  • Irrawaddy Dolphins

    The Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) is a euryhaline species of oceanic dolphin found in discontinuous subpopulations near sea coasts and in estuaries and rivers in parts of the Bay of Bengal and Southeast Asia. Its distribution is very much limited to these pockets in the world. One such pocket is the Chilika Lake in Odisha. The Irrawaddy Dolphin is the flagship species of Chilika lake being only known population of Irrawaddy dolphins in India and one of only two lagoons in the world that are home to this species. It is classified as Critically Endangered, in five of the six other places it is known to live.

    A small population of Bottlenose dolphins, also migrate into the lagoon from the sea. Chilika fishermen say that when Irrawaddy Dolphins and Bottlenose Dolphins meet in the outer channel, the former get frightened and are forced to return toward the lake.

    Some Irrawaddy dolphins used to be sighted only along the inlet channel and in a limited portion of the central sector of the lake. After the opening of the new mouth at Satapada in 2000, they are now well distributed in the central and the southern sector of the lake. The number of dolphins sighted has varied from 50 to 170 in different years.

    Census data of dolphins year-wise is as below-

    Year No. of Irrawady dolphins Year No. of Irrawady dolphins
    2007 135 2011 156
    2008 138 2012 145
    2009 146 2013 152
    2010 158 2014 158
    The Odisha Tourism Department and the Dolphin Motorboat Association, an NGO at Satpada, report about 40,000 tourists visit Chilika every year for dolphin Watching. October–January and May–June are the peak season for tourists at Chilika, with a maximum 600–700 per day during December–January. Boat based dolphin watching tours impact dolphin behavior and cause several accidental dolphin deaths each year.

    The Irrawaddy dolphins have a seemingly mutualistic relationship of co-operative fishing with the traditional fishermen. Fishermen recall when they would call out to the dolphins, to drive fish into their nets.

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  • Gandhamardan

    Gandhamardan Hills or Gandhamardan parbat is situated on the western side of the state expanding to Balangir and Bargarh district of Odisha as depicted in 'Ramayan' when at the war site the Raj Vaidya required a particular medicinal plant species to revive critically injured Laxmana, Hanuman not able to identify the plant had lifted the entire hills on his shoulders to the war site. Historically it was a seat of Budhist culture and ruins, in abundant evidence, of that era are still found in the plateau atop the hills. The champion Chinese traveler 'HiuenT'sang' was attracted by the scenic splendor of Gandhamardan during his tour to Dakhin Kosal. He has spoken of the flowering Buddhist University of PARIMALGIRI (po–lo–mo–lo–ki–li), which had its campus on the picturesque Gandhamardan hills. Culturally the hill is abode of two famous temples; 'Nrusinghanath' on northern slopes and 'Harisankar' on southern slopes. Thousand of pilgrims visit the hills.


    The Gandhamardan mountain ranges are a rich source of diversity for medicinal plants. The Botanical Survey of India has reported the existence of 220 plant species of medicinal value. Local people, however, claim that there are more than 500 species of medicinal plants in this area. The flora of the buffer zone is most vulnerable. Many medicinal plant species such as Clerodendronindicum, Rauvolfiaserpentina and Plumbagozeylanica, which were once available in plenty, have become scarce. A study recorded 2,700 angiosperms and 125 species of important medicinal plants, out of a total of 220 species of medicinal and quasi-medicinal and economically vital plants.

    Such is its richness in medicinal plants that more than 100 traditional healthcare practitioners live in and around the Gandhamardan hills. These practitioners provide medical facilities to about 50,000 tribal people. There are two Ayurvedic colleges and hospitals on both side of Gandhamardan – one in Bargarh district and the other in Balangir

    Local people have great faith in ayurvedic practitioners and in many villages, their main occupation is to collect herbs and supply them to companies such as Dabur and Zandu. Some of these villages include Khandijharan, Manbhang, Magurmal and Cherengajhanj. A study conducted by M Brahma and H O Saxena of the Regional Research Laboratory (Now Institute of Materials & Minerals Technology), Bhubaneswar recorded the medicinal uses of nearly 200 species, out of which they found the uses of 77 to be new or "interesting'.

  • Mass Nesting Olive Ridley Turtle

    Olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) are best known for their behavior of synchronized nesting in mass numbers, termed arribadas. Odisha boasts of possessing the world's largest known rookery of Olive Ridley sea turtle. Apart from Gahirmatha rookery, two other mass nesting beaches have been located which are on the mouth of rivers Rushikulya and Devi. The spectacular site of mass congregation of Olive Ridley sea turtles for mating and nesting enthralls both the scientists and the nature lovers throughout the world. This unique phenomenon is hardly seen anywhere in the world.

    Mass nesting at Gahirmatha – Olive Ridley sea turtles migrate in huge numbers from the beginning of November every year, for mating and nesting along the coast of Odisha. Gahirmatha coast has the annual nesting figure between 1,00,000 to 5,00,000 numbers.

    Mass nesting at River Devi Mouth- The Devi river reaches Bay of Bengal 70 KM south of the mouth of Mahanadi river, a short distance from the border of Cuttack and Puri districts. The mouth of the river is surrounded by dense forests absent of inhabitants. The mouth of the Devi River serves as a nesting ground for Olive Ridley turtles rookery during their breeding season. The first rookery in this area north of Puri was discovered in 1981. Lakhs of turtles come to this region every winter for breeding.

    Mass nesting at Rushikulya River Mouth- The mass–nesting beach (rookery) along the Chilika coast is at Rushikulya which is located at the southern Odisha coast. It spreads over six km. stretching from the coastline in front of village Purunabandh (one Km. north of Rushikulya river mouth) to the beach in front of Kantiagada village of Ganjam District. The nesting beach is much wide, more or less flat with scattered sand dunes of 1 – 2 m high. The average beach width is about 100 m from near the high tide line, though at some places the width of the beach is more than 100 m. About 1.5 to 2 lakhs or more turtles go for nesting every season.