Dudhwa National Park & Kishenpur Wildlife Sanctuary

BNHS Camp to Dudhwa

The route from Lucknow to Palia in Lakhimpur Kheri district is a long and  arduous  238 kms. The poor quality of roads remind one that although this is a politically important state, good governance seems to defy this area. However, the scenery is beautiful and suddenly we come across this pair of Sarus  Cranes feeding in the fields. 

It is afternoon when we check into the small Tigerhino resort in Palia and post Luch we take the 12 kms drive to the entry of Dudhwa National Park
The Dudhwa National Park is a national park in the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh and covers an area of 490.3 km2 (189.3 sq mi), with a buffer zone of 190 km2 (73 sq mi). It is part of the dudhwa Tiger Reserve and is located on the Indo-Nepal border district of Lakhimpur Kheri.  It has a buffer of reserved forest areas on the northern and southern sides. This pristine area represents one of the few remaining examples of a highly diverse and productive Terai ecosystem that supports  a large number of endangered species, obligate species of tall wet grasslands and species of restricted distribution.
While visiting Dudhwa, how can we forget the legendary Billy Arjun Singh, the avid hunter turned ardent conservationist who single-handedly fought for saving this pristine forest and its amazing wildlife from destruction and disaster. Billy is to Dudhwa what Fatehsingh Rathore is to Ranthanbore or Jim corbett is to the kumaon. These are some of the doyens of the 20th century conservation efforts that have helped save the wild spaces of Northern India. This blog post is a tribute to late Col. Billy Arjun Singh.

In the very first safari, some mild form of adventure is in store for our jeep as it stalls right in the middle of the forest and it is about 45 minutes before a a replacement arrives and we join the other jeeps at the water body.

above & below - Wooly-necked Stork at the Waterbody

Large Cormorant

We are informed that the elephant ride is on and we rush to meet our pachyderm. it is a long wait as all the elephants have already been assigned and we move around taking photos of the small birds in the trees

Verditer Flycatcher hiding in the canopy

Oriental White Eye

Crested Serpent Eagle
And finally after an hour, our elephant Roopkali arrives with her human load. Tired after her first round she patiently accommodates us on her back with her mahout Iqbal yelling "mahla' & prodding her on. We enter the Rhino enclosure. an interesting ride through tall elephant grass in the hope of seeing  the Swamp Francolin. But alas it is too late & we are content with seeing the Rhinocerous at close quarters

above & below - Indian One-horned Rhinocerous

Kishenpur is a 30 km drive from Palia. This is a good place to watch large herds of the Northern race of the Swamp Deer - Cervus duvauceli duvauceli locally known as Barasingha. Although the name barasingha means 12 horns, the actual tines may vary and can reach 20 or more. While much focus have been placed on the tiger and big cats in our country, there are many species as the
Rhinocerous and the Swamp Deer which are classic stories of how effective wildlife conservation can save a species from the brink of extinction.

There are 3 sub-species of the Swamp Deer in India. The northern race mentioned above found in Uttar Pradesh & Nepal, the eastern race C.d. ranjitsinhii found in Assam especially Kaziranga and the hard-ground Swamp deer C.d. branderii found in Central India most notably Kanha National Park.
For those of you who are not familiar with the nomenclature of the Latin/scientific names, here is a brief explanation taking the Swamp deer as an example. The first name - Cervus is the genus name; the second - duvauceli is the species name; and in case there is a third name in this case again duvauceli or branderii or ranjitsinhii it indicates the sub-species. The latin or scientific names are always written in italics with only the first alphabet of the genus written in capital letters.
Hope this was not too heavy, so here are the photos of the herd of Swamp Deer taken from a considerable distance

Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary

A 3 1/2 hour ride over a bumpy 100 km route from Palia brings us to the Katerniaghat wildlife Sanctuary. The GPS shows that we are just 3 kms from the Nepal Border. Katernaighat is situated in the upper Gangetic Plain in Bahraich district of UP & is part of the Dudhwa Tiger reserve.  It covers an area of 400.6 km2 (154.7 sq mi) in the Terai grasslands. This is the place to see the Snout Crocodile (Gharial) & the endangered endemic - Indian Skimmers. Two species that i saw a month earlier at Chambal.

The Katerniaghat Forest provides strategic connectivity between the tiger habitats of Dudhwa and Kishanpur in India and the Bardia National Park in Nepal. Its fragile Terai ecosystem comprises a mosaic of Sal and Teak forests, lush grasslands, numerous swamps and wetlands. It is home to a number of endangered species including the Gharial, Tiger, Indian One-horned Rhinocerous, Gangetic Dolphin, Swamp Deer, Hispid hare, Bengal Florican as well as the white-backed and Long-billed Vultures.  

A one hour boat ride on the river Girwa is an interesting experience and so is the safari in the park. The title photo of this blog shows a small village across the river that leads to Nepal. See more of this lovely forest in the pictures below

A surprise sighting of the endangered Indian Skimmers

Pair of Ruddy Shelducks

Snout Crocodiles (Gharials) having a face-off

And the winner keeps the land!

River Tern

Large Cormorant

Red-headed Vulture

More Indian Skimmers on the shore
the boat that ferries us on the Girwa river

no prizes for identifying this species! ha ha