Van Vihar is one of the most significant and richly endowed biodiverse areas with respect to similar areas situated inside the city limits anywhere in the country. Since the day of its formation under the able guidance of management team and with the persistent efforts of the staff, the once denuded land of the national park and zoo has shown considerable growth in vegetation as well as the wildlife it is home to.
Van Vihar houses atleast 700 species of plants. Some of the prominent tree species include Amaltas (Cassia fistula), Safed Babul (Acacia leucophloe), Reunjha (Acacia leucophloea), Landia (Lagerstroemia parviflora), Saja (Terminalia tomentosa) etc.
In the closed areas of fodder farm and plantations, different palatable grass species like Chrysopogon fulvus, Themeda triendra, Heteropogan contortus, Dicanthium annulatum, Chloris dolichostachia etc, are found which are liked by the large number of free roaming herbivores like Chital, Nilgai, Sambhar Deer etc.
Hilly portion of the park, once heavily infested with Lantana, lower plains with Parthenium and Cassia tora weeds, are now free of these weeds due to constant interventions and habitat improvement efforts over the years leading to better grasslands for the free ranging herbivores.
Van Vihar has a lot of herbivores and carnivores. While the herbivores are free ranging, the carnivores have been housed in large enclosures under captive but near natural conditions. The near natural conditions provided in big enclosures make it an animal friendly zoo. Van Vihar always has an element of surprise for the visitors as it offers them many thrills of a jungle experience - a sudden sighting of tawny Tiger behind golden bamboo clumps, roar of Lion, a queer laugh of a Hyena, alarm call of a Sambar, rutting call of a Chital, fluttering of colorful tiny butterflies and melodious chirping of birds. The migratory birds add to the scenic beauty of the natural and open aviaries in the winters.
The carnivores include Tigers, Lions, Panthers, Hyenas, Jackals.
The herbivores include Sambar, Spotted deers, Blue bulls, Black bucks, Chousinghas, Common Langurs, Porcupines, Hares etc.
The omnivores include Wild boars and Sloth bears.
In addition to this the park also showcases Ghariyal, Crocodiles, Turtles, Star tortoise and Snakes.
The location of the Van Vihar is on the bank of the biggest man-made lake of Bhopal - The upper lake which provides a suitable habitat for birds. More than 210 species of birds have been identified and listed so far. More than 80 species of migratory birds visit this area during the winter. Some of the important winter visitors are Pintail, Spotbill, Brahminy duck, Gadwall, Red crested Pochard, Bar headed goose, Common teal, Spoonbill, Painted stork, Open billed stork and Purple heron etc.
The natural open aviaries inside Van Vihar during winter are visited by hundreds of winged colorful creatures of various species which becomes a mesmerizing sight for nature lovers. A pair of Black necked Stork has been regularly sighted and it breeds in Van Vihar, rare sightings of Brown headed Stork-billed Kingfisher along with a single sighting of Black capped Kingfisher have also been reported. Apart from this Common Pariah Kite, Great Indian Horned Owl, Shikra, Marsh Harrier, Tawny Eagle and Kestrel are some of the important birds of prey.