Velavadar (Blackbuck) National Park
Velavadar is situated in the Bhal region of Saurashtra in Gujarat. It is a unique grassland ecosystem and perhaps the only tropical grasslands in India to be deemed a National Park. It is most renowned for its enchanting blackbuck population. The elegant blackbuck is endemic to India and Velavadar is one of its prime home territories. Wolves are the main predators of blackbuck in the park. It is highly recommended for any birdwatcher, with several birds like the Lesser Florican visiting the area.
History And Culture
Velavadar has also earned fame as the world’s largest roosting site of the harrier. Velavadar National Park extends over an area of 35 sq. km. comprising mainly fl at grasslands. The Park lies between two rivers, some distance away from the Gulf of Cambay. The fertile soils are believed to have arisen from the sea. More than 1,000 blackbuck exist on the open grasslands of Velavadar. These are shy and extremely graceful animals and the fastest of all Indian antelopes. The male has ringed horns spirally twisted into three or four turns; up to 70 cm. long. Females are light brown and usually lack horns.
At the peak of the rutting season, it is common to see one dominant male strutting around with gigantic horns. In six months, each female bears one fawn that remains close to its mother for over a year, even as it joins the herd in roaming the grasslands. Wolves and jackals are prime predators in the park. Other mammals seen in Velavadar include the fox, jackal, jungle cat, wild pig, nilgai, the blacknaped hare and several rodents.
Vegetation / Flora
Blackbuck at Velavadar welcome tourists right at the gate. They may often be seen crisscrossing the park, sometimes even on the road. Herds of chital may also be seen in the grasslands. Wolves prefer the shrubs for lying and feeding. They mainly prey on the blackbuck, hare and other small animals. Wolves, although rare in India, may be seen prowling about in Velavadar and they may also be seen drinking at water holes between dawn and dusk.
The Lesser Florican, although a rare and shy bird, is relatively easy to spot at Velavadar and you may see several everyday without making much of an effort. On arrival, the males first mark their territories and soon commence their courtship display to attract the female. They jump vertically up to about two meters high and they can do this about 500 times in a day! The park staff even marks the territories with a pole, so you may see many males doing their high-jumps near their territory, even from the Tourist Lodge.