Little Rann of Kutch
Wild Ass Sanctuary
The Wild Ass Sanctuary at Little Rann of Kutch (Kachchh) is located in north-west India, in Gujarat's Surendranagar, Rajkot, Patan, Banaskantha and Kachchh districts. Spread over 4,954 (7,170?) sq. kms, the Sanctuary is part of the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK), a southward extension of the Great Rann of Kutch (GRK). The sanctuary holds the last population of the endangered Asiatic Wild Ass Equus hemionus khur (see image above).
Like the GRK, the LRK is a flat, salt-impregnated, mudflat which is seasonally inundated during the southwest monsoon by up to 2 meters of water. During the dry season the area turns into a desiccated salt-encrusted wasteland and the only vegetation that survives is found in the edges and in the 'bets' (beyts). Bets are elevated isolated patches of land with less salinity which support some xerophytic vegetation and provide wet season refuge to the wildlife. The LRK has 74 identified bets, of which 51 have vegetation cover. The 'Pung Bet' covers an area of 30 sq. kms. and the 'Mardak Bet' rises to 55m.
LRK falls in the 'Rann of Kutch Seasonal Salt Marsh' (IM0901) bio-geographic zone. The ecoregion represents the dry, arid mudflats at the end of the Luni river and falls within Udvardy's Thar Desert biogeographic province. It extends across north-western Gujarat and southern Pakistan's Sind Desert region. The vegetation here consists mainly of grasses and dry thorny scrub.
Champion and Seth (1968) classify these forests as Salvadora scrub and tropical Euphorbia scrub. There are very few trees and large portions of Little Rann is covered by Prosopis spp., an invasive plant. Bets and fringe area support a variety of indigenous plants like Suaeda spp., Salvadora persica, Capparis decidua, Capparis deciduas, Calotropis procera, Tamarix sp., Aeluropus lagopoides, Cressa cretica, Sporobolus spp. and Prosopis Cineraria. Grasses and dry thorny scrub include Apluda aristata, Cenchrus spp., Pennisetum spp., Cymbopogon spp. etc.
MacQueen's Bustard; Image: Ramki
Little Rann of Kutch is a place to see birds in numbers. Due to its unique geographical location, Kutch is considered to be at the crossroads of Palearctic migration streams and witnesses great waves of migratory birds in winter. It's location near the sea and its vast low-lying expanses, which get periodically flooded by marine water, creates an unique habitat which attracts a wide variety of birds. Over 200 bird species have been recorded in the area. Breeding species include India's only known nesting colony of the Lesser Flamingo. Other key species consist of European Roller, McQueen’s Bustard, Lesser Florican, Demoiselle Crane, Common Crane, Spotted Sandgrouse, Red-necked Phalarope, Cream-colored Courser, Sociable Lapwing, Collared Pratincole, White-rumped Vulture, Indian Spotted Eagle, a variety of harriers, Greater Flamingo, Dalmatian Pelican, White Stork, Greater Hoopoe Lark and Sykes’s Lark.
Bird and wildlife viewing is easy at LRK due to the presence of excellent birding infrastructure. Most of the top-rated tourist establishments have knowledgeable guides who can show you all the regular birds.
Greater Hoopoe Lark; Image: Ramki
Where to stay
There are several places to stay in and around LRK. Aside from the Govt. Guest House at Dhrangadhra, there are some well-known private operators who offer a complete LRK experience. These include the Rann Riders Resort at Dasada and the Desert Coursers at Zainabad.
Entry and travel
The Sanctuary has three main access points at Dhrangadhra, Range Bajana, and Range Adesar (Aadeshwar). Range Bajana is the best place to enter in the winter as the wetlands that house migratory birds are closest to it. Dhrangadhra is the easiest place to find transportation and accommodation.
Road: 130 kms from Ahmedabad
Railway station: Dhrangadhra - 16kms
Airport: Ahmedabad - 130kms
Important Facts and figures
Area: 4953.71 (7,170 ?) sq. km
Phone : (O) 02754 260716.
Temperatures: High 45ºC; Low 0ºC. Winter November - February.
Location: Between 22º 55' to 24º 35' N and 70º 30' to 71º 45' E
Nearby attractions: Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, about 40kms.
Best season: October to March
Forests and Environment Deptt. Govt. of Gujarat
World Heritage Convention: Wild Ass Sanctuary, LRK
Kachchh Biosphere Reserve: Rann and Biodiversity by M. Pardeshi et.al.
Rann Riders, Dasada
Desert Coursers, Camp Zainabad