The final count of 2009 revealed that Karlapat is an abode for 123 varieties of birds belonging to 49 different species of 15 families of which 37 varieties belong to the rare category of birds. These apart, 9 varieties of migratory birds haunt Karlapat every year; 3 varieties in summer and another 6 in winter. Karlapat too happens to be the natural habitat for 11 other varieties of aquatic birds.
Locals claim that Royal Bengal Tigers (RBT) too are present in the deep forests of Karlapat, though the forest department authorities deny it. However, wildlife activist and research scholar Satyesh Nayak, an animal conservator, has posted on his blog certain photographs with footprints of tigers to establish the presence of RBTs in Karlapat. Wildlife experts claim that the natural environs of Karlapat provide an ideal and conducive environment for tigers. Black panthers, which are on the verge of extinction from the world map, are seen here.
A number of perennial streams flow across the area and feed the river Tel, a major tributary of Odisha's largest river Mahanadi. High plateau and waterfalls attract tourists to study and enjoy the nature. The vegetation of the sanctuary along with its perennial water sources influences the microclimate of Kalahandi district.
About the uniqueness of Karlapat as a biodiversity and its ecological importance Agnaya Mohapatra a reputed tourist guide said, “Presence of moist peninsular Sal forests, mixed deciduous forests and bamboo brakes, undulated terrain, grasslands, caves, numbers of perennial streams, undulated terrains interspersed with innumerable valleys, high altitude peaks, and plateaux, has supported myriads of life forms, including some of the endangered mammals like Tigers and Elephants, Leopard, Wild Boar, Giant squirrels, Antelopes, Small Clawed Otters, Indian Bison etc. listed under IUCN category.
So far, three plants, namely, Carolladiscus Lanuginosus, Nymphoides Parvifolia, Habenaria Barbata including one extinct fungi, i.e., Phallus Indusiatus reported from Krishnamali and Khandualmali hills situated in the 2-3 km buffer of the sanctuary are new distributional records of occurrence for Eastern Ghats, in the Himalayas and China.”
The lifestyle and culture of the scheduled tribes of Karlapat is as rich and vibrant as the precious greens of Karlapat. An apathetic government has thus far failed to tap the eco-tourism potentiality of Karlapat. Karlapat in the past was ruled by the Zamindari system, which the Britishers too preferred to continue with. The presence of the royal place in the village located near the forests stands as a testimony to it.
The Khandualamalli is living testimony to the glorious tradition, lifestyle and culture of the tribesmen of Karlapat. The family god of the then local Zamindar, Khanduala, still presides over in the caves of the wavy hill. The rocks and forests of Karlapat as yet sing the glorious and unique culture of the locals. In real parlance “mali” means hill and hence the name Khandualmalli as their beloved God Khanduala resides in the cave.
History has it that the their Zamindar Mahamahendra Singhdeo and his wife Manjari Devi took shelter in the Karlapat when his Zamindari was attacked by the Britishers and used to pay obeisance to the family deity Khanduala inside the Karlapat caves. Since then the family members of the Zamindar and the locals have been congregating near the cave during the Dussera , Jhamu Yatra and observing the traditional festival. The locals are mainly Kutia tribes. The chief deity of the Kutias, Goddess Dokari, too resides in the hill.
The rich culture of the Kutias, sings paeans about their love and respect for nature, deities and their life mainly revolves around that nature. The family members of the Zamindar along with the locals carry the traditional sword and the deity Dokari to the cave where the deity Khanduala resides for the traditional festival.
The priest Sudarshan says , “Villagers engage in feasting and revelry accompanied by traditional tribal dance while the Zaimindar too throws a kind of party for his people.”
Karlapat is wailing and yelling despite its unfathomable beauty and richness and the ever-flowing streams and the breeze are the lone witnesses of its abject neglect and betrayal. The so-called civilized men fail to hear its cry. It is a huge treasure house. Its rich environment holds huge potentialities for mankind. Underneath its belly lies bauxite mineral. There is abundant water reserve. It is an irony that mankind ever eager for development have failed to release their potentialities. Result: the very presence of bauxite has started the toll telling heavily for Karlapat. The dark clouds of development today hover heavily over Karlapat .
Local tribals said, “The fangs of so called development and the fire emanating from its greed pose severe danger to the Karlapat hill, its rich bio-diversity and the streams and above all, the very beautiful dream that is called Karlapat. The embers are glowing and growing endangers the very life of Kalarpat. Under Naveen Patnaik’s regime, the industrialists driven by the sole motive of profit and avarice have already chalked out a well calculated plan to destroy Karlapat to enrich themselves. The tranquil nature of Karlapat has now given the clarion call to save it from the preying eyes of the industrialists. Realizing the danger, the nature loving tribals have started congregating near Karlapat to save their beloved Karlapat.”
The fulcrum of Karlapat’s biodiversity and environment revolve around Krishna, Khanduala and Betakota hills which have vast reserves of bauxite. According to an estimate, there is over 200 million tons of bauxites in an area spreading over 31,183 hectares of Karlapat. Hence, Karlapat has become the lovable preying ground for several multinational companies which want to raise its bauxite and rape its environment. The great conspiracy for mining at Karlapat has already reached the final stage and around 25 companies are in a queue including BHP Bilton, a global bauxite giant.