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The typical vegetation of the Inner Terai is Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests with predominantly Sal trees covering about 70% of the national park area. Purest stands of sal occur on well drained lowland ground in the centre. Along the southern face of the Churia Hills sal is interspersed with chir pine (Pinus roxburghii). On northern slopes sal associates with smaller flowering tree and shrub species such as Beleric (Terminalia bellirica), Rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo), Axlewood (Anogeissus latifolia), Elephant Apple (Dillenia indica), Grey Downy Balsam (Garuga pinnata) and creepers such as Bauhinia vahlii and Spatholobus parviflorus.
Seasonal bushfires, flooding and erosion evoke an ever-changing mosaic of riverine forest and grasslands along the river banks. On recently deposited alluvium and in lowland areas groups of Catechu (Acacia catechu) with Rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo) predominate, followed by groups of Kapok (Bombax ceiba) with Rhino Apple trees (Trewia nudiflora), the fruits of which rhinos savour so much. Understorey shrubs of Velvety beautyberry (Callicarpa macrophylla), Hill Glory Bower (Clerodendrum sp.) and gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica) offer shelter and lair to a wide variety of species.
Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands cover about 20% of the park's area. More than 50 species are found here including some of the world's tallest grasses like the elephant grass called Saccharum ravennae, Giant cane (Arundo donax), Khagra reed (Phragmites karka) and several species of true grasses. Kans grass (Saccharum spontaneum) is one of the first grasses to colonise new sandbanks and to be washed away by the yearly monsoon floods.
The wide range of vegetation types in the Chitwan National Park is haunt of more than 700 species of wildlife and a not yet fully surveyed number of butterfly, moth and insect species. Apart from King Cobra and Rock python, 17 other species of snakes, starred tortoise and monitor lizards occur. The Narayani-Rapti river system, their small tributaries and myriads of oxbow lakes is habitat for 113 recorded species of fish and mugger crocodiles.
In the early 1950s, about 235 gharials occurred in the Narayani River. The population has dramatically declined to only 38 wild gharials in 2003. Every year gharial eggs are collected along the rivers to be hatched in the breeding center of the Gharial Conservation Project, where animals are reared to an age of 6–9 years. Every year young gharials are reintroduced into the Narayani-Rapti river system, of which sadly only very few survive.