Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary…

Bharatpur (Keoladeo Ghana) Bird Sanctuary

In the nesting season the sound of birds can be so loud as to drown out human conversation. And the buzz of insects pervades the air, always. Grass grows out from the still waters of the many wetlands, together with lotus, duckweed, water fern and sedge - food for countless living things such as frogs, snails, mosquitoes, dragonflies, fish, water snakes and birds that collectively conspire to make the Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, a World Heritage and Ramsar Site.

History And Culture

This is arguably one of the most unique bird habitats on the earth. Those who knew him confi rm that Dr. Salim Ali, the grand old man of ornithology, was happiest here, in the midst of nature and the birds he lived to study and enjoy. At one time hundreds of Siberian Cranes used to winter in the Ghana. Like white ghosts in the mist they were lured here from other near and far north Indian wetlands. The ‘Sibes’ used to arrive at the Ghana from their breeding grounds in Siberia, 6,400 km. away for decades, is search of reliable food sources, because all their summer supplies were snowed under.

In 1956 the area was finally declared a bird sanctuary, but shooting was only stopped in 1964. However, the Maharajah himself retained personal shooting rights all the way through to 1972, when the Wildlife (Protection) Act made it illegal. Bharatpur was declared a Ramsar site in October 1981. The area was declared a National Park in 1982 and a World Heritage Site in December 1985.

Chital deer can be seen in herds numbering hundreds. Wildboar, preyed upon by leopards and tigers, are common almost everywhere. Four-horned antelope or chausingha, blackbuck and nilgai can also be seen, but less frequently. The Hanuman langur and palm squirrels are ubiquitous. Some animals are difficult to sight. These include the hyena, blackbuck, chevrotain (mouse deer, only 300 cm. tall!), porcupines, sambar and barking deer (or muntjac), (found in small numbers). Pythons and cobras, though common, are diffi cult to spot.

Vegetation / Flora

Ghana simply means “dense”. It possibly refers to the forests that may have covered the present area once. The park lies 370 m. above sea level and constitutes wetland, woodland, swamp, scrub and pasture. Wetlands comprise half the area, while the others occupy the rest. The aquatic vegetation of the marshes is rich and provides a valuable food source for waterfowl. Plant species include water lilies the true lotus, duckweed, water fern, sedges and lesser reed mace. Wild rice grows in parts, attracting birds.The other vegetation is typical of a semi arid zone dominated by babul, ber, khejri, kadam and peepul. About 44,000 trees in this park are used for nesting.