Dudhwa National Park
Dudhwa National Park, in Lakhimpur-Kheri District of Uttar Pradesh, adjacent to Nepal border, is one of the major projects for wildlife preservation in India. Spread over an expanse of approximately 811 sq km of marshes, grasslands and dense forests, it is a home for over 38 species of mammals, 16 species of reptiles and numerous species of birds. It has two core areas: Dudhwa National Park and Kishanpur wildlife sanctuary. They are 15 km apart with agricultural land between them. Unlike other major national parks in India like Corbett, Kaziranga etc., its uncommercialized environment makes it an ideal place for animal and bird lovers to spend a day or two in peace, closest to nature.
Located on the Indo-Nepal border of the Lakhimpur Kheri district in Uttar Pradesh, India, Dudhwa National Park (680 square kilometres), along with two other adjacent parks, the Kishanpur Wild Life Sanctuary (204 square kilometres) and Katerniaghat Wild Life Sanctuary (440 square kilometres) is now named as the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve under the Project Tiger. It represents some of the best natural forests and grasslands left in the Terai district of Uttar Pradesh and is today the last viable home of the Royal Bengal Tiger in the state, along with species such as swamp deer, Indian one horned rhinoceros and the elusive hispid hare. Arguably, it has some of the best forests of 'Sal' tree in the world, amongst other flora and is a virtual unexplored paradise for nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and bird watchers.
After independance of India in 1947, the locals starting encroaching the wilderness of the jungle and the forests started being replaced by paddy and sugarcane. Its location on the Indo-Nepal border provides ideal environment for poachers who hunt for the animals here and sell their products in Nepal, which being a tourist place gives them a huge market for these things. It was a heaven for poachers, game lovers and locals. It is due to the untiring and single-handed efforts of 'Billy' Arjan Singh that this park now stands with its richness. The area was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1965 which received a lot of criticism from the people benefitting from the area. Standing up to the point of being obsessive, Billy favoured the decision and went on to convince the erstwhile Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, to declare the forest as a National park in 1977. In 1984-85, seven rhinos were relocated from Assam and Nepal to Dudhwa to rehabilitate a rhino population which lived here 150 years ago. Four years later, it was declared a Tiger Reserve under the Project Tiger and currently is a major habitat for tigers in India.
The forest is located on the foot-hills of the Himalyas with the flat land covered by spreads of grasslands, swamps and dense forests of tall sal trees. The area is an extremely fertile vast alluvial plain. This mix of ecosystems plays a key role in sustaining a large number living species. The swamps and vast grasslands with tall, yellow grass provide a natural habitat for tigers, deers, rhino etc while dense forests support a variety of other animals and birds also.
Flora and fauna
Dudhwa National Park is a home for 38 species of mammals, 16 species of reptiles, 400 species of birds and 90 species of fish. The main attraction of Dudhwa is swamp deer. Half of the world's 4000 swamp deer live here. Apart from this, four more types of deer found here: hog deer, spotted deer, barking deer and sambar. The officials figure on the population of tigers is 101 but according to Billy himself there is not enough prey to support more than 20 tigers. The rhino population has increased from 7 to 16 since 1984. There are a few leopards also and recently a hispid hare has also been seen. Wild boars, elephants and bears also give an occasional sighting here.
Drive from Delhi (8–9 hours) or take the train to Shahjehanpur and drive to Dudhwa (3 hours). Alternatively fly to Lucknow and drive to Dudhwa (245 km, 6 hours).
Nearest Railway Station: Dudwa (4 km.), Palia (10 km.), Mailani (37 km.), Gola Gokaran Nath (70 Kms).
Nearest Airport: Lucknow, Dhangarhi (Nepal, 35 kms).
The forest provides no jeep safaris or guides. Jeeps and mini buses can be hired to move around inside the park. Elephant rides through the Park are also available and moreover the mahouts or Elephant drivers also double up as guides.
The park has only one canteen, located in the Main Office of the park. They serve vegetarian food of reasonable quality at moderate prices. Orders have to be given in advance from the menu.