MELGHAT SANCTUARY: Spider Fauna in Melghats

Melghat Tiger Reserve is located on southern offshoot of the Satpura Hill Range in Central India, also called Gavilgarh hills. The high ridge running East-West which has highest point at Vairat (1178 m above MSL) forms the South Western boundary of the Reserve.It is a prime habitat of Tiger. The forest is Tropical Dry Deciduous in nature, dominated by Teak (Tectona grandis). The area is catchment to the five major rivers viz Khandu, Khapra, Sipna, Gadga and Dolar, all of which are tributaries of the river Tapti. The North-Eastern boundary of the Reserve is marked by River Tapti. Melghat is prime biodiversity repository of the Maharashtra State.

Nature has offered protection to Melghat in the form of rugged topography with only few entry points. The Makhala, Chikhaldara, Chiladari, Patulda and Gugamal are the large plateau amidst rugged terrain.Continuity of forests in Satpura Hill Range guarantees long term conservation potential of the area.

Melghat area was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1974. Presently, the total area of the Reserve is 1676.93 sq. km. The core area of the Reserve, the Gugarnal National Park with an area of 361.28 sq. km. and buffer area of the Reserve, the Melghat Tiger Sanctuary with an area of 788.28 sq. km. (of which 21.39 sq. km. is non-forest) were together re-notified by the state government in 1994 as Melghat Sanctuary. The remaining area is management as ‘multiple use area’. Previously, Melghat Tiger Sanctuary was created in 1985 with an area of 1597.23 sq. km. Gugarnal National Park was carved out of this Sanctuary in 1987.

Forest Types

Southern Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests

Major Flora

More than 700 naturalised plant species have been enlisted in Flora of Melghat. These species belong to about 400 genera representing as many as 97 families. There are 90 tree spp., 66 shrubs spp., 316 herbs spp., 56 climbers, 23 sedges and 99 grass species along with 60-70 newly identified species.

Main Species

Teak is the predominant tree species. The common associated are Lagerstroemia parviflora, Lannea coromandelica, Emblica officinalis, Terminalia tomentosa, Anogeissus latifolia and Oujenia oojeinesis. Bamboo (Dendrocalamus strictus ) is wide spread.


There is gregarious spread of Lantana camara and Hyptis sauveolens. Lantana is found in almost all valleys and village surroundings, where constant grazing takes place. However it is absent on slopes. Lantana and Hyptis have spread to roughly 30 per cent and 20 per cent of the area respectively.

Major Fauna

Mammals: Tiger, Leopard, Sloth bear, Wild dog, Jackal, Sambar, Gaur, Barking deer, Nilgai, Cheetal, Chousinga, Ratel, Flying Squirrel, Wild boar, Langur, Rhesus monkey, Porcupine, Pangolin, Mouse deer, Python, Otter, Caracal, Black napped hare.


The Lake is said to be the only crater in the great basaltic formation of India. Initial appreciation of the lake was, as of volcanic origin, but now it is recognized as an impact crater created by the hypervelocity impact of either a comet or a meteorite. The presence of plagioclase that has been either converted into maskelnite or contains planar deformation features(PDFs) has confirmed the impact origin of this crater. It is argued that only shock mechanism caused by hypervelocity impact can transform plagioclase into maskelynite or create PDFs. The presence of shatter cones, impact deformation of basalt layers comprising its rim, shocked breccia inside the crater, and non-volcanic ejecta blanket surrounding the crater are further proof of the impact origin of Lonar crater. As a result of the studies, broadly, the geological features of the Lonar crater has been marked under five distinguishable zones, exhibiting distinct geomorphic characteristics.

The five zones are:

  1. The outermost Ejecta Blanket
  2. The crater rim
  3. The slopes of the crater
  4. The crater basin, excluding lake
  5. The crater lake

We are performing the spider survey in the two zones i.e. slopes of the crater and the crater basin(excluding lake).

A series of low hills surround the basin which has an oval shape (almost round) with circumference at top of about 8 km (five miles). The sides of the basin rises abruptly at an angle of about 75°. At the base, the lake has a circumference of about 4.8 km (three miles). The slopes are covered with jungle interspersed with teak tree. A belt of large trees about a mile broad runs all round the basin; belt is formed of concentric rings of different species of trees. A ring of date-palms followed by a ring of tamarind trees (nearly 1.6 km or a mile broad) leads to a ring of babul trees, bounded on the inside by a belt of bare muddy space; mud space is several hundred metres/yards broad, devoid of all vegetation (due to soda content in the water) and covered with a whitish slimy soil, and leads to the lake water. During the rainy season, the drainage into the lake covers the muddy space. The water of the lake contains various salts or sodas. During the dry weather, as the water level reduces with evaporation, large quantities of sodas are collected. A well of sweet water is also located on the southern side of the lake, close to lake’s water edge two small streams drain into the lake.