Dudhwa National Park
Distance from Delhi : 420km
Distance from Lucknow : 260km
Total area : 490sq km
Best time to visit : October to April
¤ Dudhwa National Park - The Largest and Thickest Forests
As the morning sun shines over the 50 feet tall Sal trees,
dragonflies stretch out their wings by the gentle warmth of the golden
sun. Sitting calmly on the dew- drenched leaves, they bask in the
fresh warmth to recharge themselves for the days flight.
Somewhere in the distance a koyal welcomes the morning with it's
musical ode. Very little of the sun is able to cut through the
thickness of the jungle. But what reaches the ground definitely
explodes into a majestic display of light and shadow on the canvas of
dry leaves. An occasional rustle sends shivers down the spine. This is
Dudhwa National Park,the most precious reserves, that makes excellent
wildlfie holiday vacations in India.
Around 420km by road from Delhi and 260km from Lucknow, Dudhwa
National Park is spread over 490sq km along with a buffer area of over
100sq km. Besides massive grassland and swamps, the Park boasts of one
of the finest qualities of Sal (Shorea robusta) forests in India. Some
of these trees are more than 150 years old and over 70 feet tall. But
when the area was first notified as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1965, and
later as a National Park in 1977, it faced intense opposition from
foresters, game lovers and local inhabitants.
¤ Converted Into National Park
Nobody wanted to lose this precious piece of land that was a
life-support system for the locals. It was Billy Arjun Singh who
stepped in to see Dudhwa through its fate. Committed to the point of
being obsessive, this man stood firmly in favour of the jungle and
convinced the erstwhile Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to notify the
forest as a National Park.
This was a turning point in the history of Dudhwa National Park. Till
then, the forest was a safe haven for both poachers and timber
smugglers. Soon strict measures were taken to save the forest. In
1976, the park boasted of a population of 50 tigers, 41 elephants and
76 bears apart from five species of deer, more than 400 species of
birds, a few crocodiles, and some other species of mammals and
reptiles. officials claim that today the tiger population in Dudhwa
has touched 70. However, the local NGOs believe that the number of
tigers in Dudhwa doesnt cross 20.
¤ Main Wildlife Attractions
Dudhwa National Park holidays will take you to your most thrilling
holiday vacations where one rendezvous the barasingha, or the swamp
deer, which can be seen in herds of more than a 100. India is the only
country where this species of deer is found. According to a crude
estimate, only 4,000 odd barasinghas have survived on the planet
today, out of which more than 2,000 are found in Dudhwa.
Smaller than the sambar, the barasinghas have 12 antlers that can
collectively measure more than 100cm in height. A full-grown stag can
weigh as much as 180kg and measure 135cm at shoulder height. The coat
is slightly woolly, dark brown to pale yellow, adapted perfectly to
camouflage the herd in the tall elephant grasses of the region.
With the onset of winter, there is plenty of food to eat and warm sun
for the deer to bask in. It is the right time for the females to
conceive and for the males to form harems. This is the season when the
swamps of Dudhwa echo with the frequent wallowing of rutting stags.
There is hardly a serious conflict between the adult males. Mock
fights entail stiff postures and shrill calls rather than the actual
locking of the horns. But the most intriguing behaviour of the rutting
male swamp deer is to decorate its antlers with grass probably
a ritual before going in for a mass courting.
Time For The New Borns
The onset of spring brings back harmony. The females have conceived
and now the herd should be prepared to welcome the newborn fawns.
There is no point wearing domineering antlers now. With winter gone,
its time to shed the woolly coats. During this point of time in
the year, one can hardly see any fights amongst the males. Suddenly
everyone in the herd is busy grazing, preparing themselves for the
harsh summer ahead.
Another major attraction of the Dudhwa National Park is its tiger
population. Holidays in Dudhwa National Park gives ample opportunity
to site the majestic creatures, the tigers.Once Dudhwa was severely
affected by man-eating tigers. Although today one hardly hears of
man-eating tigers in Dudhwa, the structure of the Park could have
facilitated the attacks. This is probably the only Park that doesn't
have adequate buffer area to support the main Park. This leads to
conflict between human beings and animals that do not respect each
In the late 70s, Dudhwa became a wildlife hotspot that was famous the
world over. The reason indiscriminate killings by a tiger. On
March 2, 1978, the first ever case of man-eating in the history of the
National Park was registered. Soon after, three more men were killed.
Suddenly, shock and fear gripped the entire area. The entire city
lodged a protest with the forest officials, demanding the man-eater be
The Increasing Incidence of Man- Eating
One after another, reports of more killings began to make the
headlines of newspapers, but soon, the tale of the man-eating tiger
acquired a new twist. The forest officials and the public had by now
started believing that Tara, a tigress born in a zoo in London,
brought up in Billy Arjun Singhs farmhouse, Tiger Haven and
rehabilitated in Dudhwa, was behind the killings. Billy, the man who
was instrumental in getting the Park notified was conducting
experiments on the big cats.
After rearing leopard and tiger cubs to adulthood, he had tried to
rehabilitate them in the jungle. These experiments invited both
criticism and appreciation from wildlife lovers all over the world.
The forest officials and the locals had a strong feeling that Billys
experiments had failed and the tigress he introduced in the wild had
not acquired the skill, agility or technique to hunt, which is very
important for any tiger to survive. Tara was born and brought up in
the company of men, and the forest officials believed that she was not
afraid of human beings. They were convinced that since she did not
know how to hunt alert and agile wild animals, she had taken to
man-eating. Even today, the controversy rages on.
However, after a total 24 cases of man-eating, the killer tigress was
done to death by the forest officials (Billy himself was one of the
hunters) on November 11, 1979. It was once again a season of arguments
and counter arguments. While one lobby tried to project the killed
tigress as Tara, Billy presented evidence to deny the same.
Nonetheless, whosoever she was, this man-eating tigress of Dudhwa is
very much alive in the memories of the elders and the staff of Dudhwa.
Tigers Are Not Born Man-Eaters
It is not so that Dudhwa has only negative experiments to its credit;
it has a few success stories as well. Billy and Ram Lakhan Singh
Yadav, who was the Director of the Park, even conducted experiments to
reform man-eating tigers. Both Billy and Yadav are passionate
conservationists. Both of them are of the opinion that tigers are not
born man-eaters, they are forced into man-eating only when human
beings encroach upon their habitat and interfere with their lifestyle.
Guided by their instincts in such a situation, tigers are forced to
attack and eat man. Detailed and minute observations of the site of
killings over a period of time turned this conjecture into a belief.
Reform Brought In Wildlife Rules
Eventually, the Billy-Yadav team came across a man-eater that had
killed and eaten four people. This tiger, that later came to be known
as the long-toed tiger, had taken to man-eating by chance. The first
prey of this tiger was a grass-cutter who had intruded into its
territory rather inadvertently. Outraged by such behaviour, the tiger
killed the man and took to man-eating.
This incident helped further strenthen Billy and Yadavs belief.
The long-toed tiger was neither weak nor old. Both Billy and Yadav
decided to reform him, for they did not accept that the tiger was
killing humans as a substitute for its natural prey. They decided to
get the tiger back to his natural prey. For this it was necessary to
transfer him to an area of low human interference and high natural
In its new home, the long-toed tiger was offered regular baits, 32 in
all. The quantity of food offered to the tiger was reduced with each
passing day. and the result was that the long-toed tiger was forced to
hunt to compensate for the decreased quantity of readily available
food. In forty days, the long-toed tiger was fully cured and he
returned to his natural prey and started hunting. What Billy and Yadav
did was that they simply reformed wildlife rules. Until then it was
believed that once the tiger took to man-eating, it was very difficult
to reform it. The only way out was to shoot it.
Although wildlife conservationists the world over welcomed the
experiment, Billy and Yadav soon realised that the same formula could
not be used for every man-eater. Sometime later in August, 1978,
Yadav was forced to shoot a tiger that had claimed 16 human lives in
the district of Lakhimpur-kheri. Another man-eating tigress was shot
by Yadav in November the same year. Yadav wanted to reform this
tigress that was rearing two cubs on the one hand, and, had eaten six
people, on the other. One should try and understand the dilemma that a
conservationist-hunter faces in such a situation: the life and
security of ones fellow human beings versus the will to conserve
and save another fellow species who, by accident, turns criminal.
Yadav ended up shooting the tigress Gola, the mother of two cubs.
Other Incidence of Man - Eating
Around this time, Dudhwa witnessed many incidences of man-eating.
Sometimes two or three tigers together would spread havoc. On December
6, 1978, the hunter Mahindera Singh shot the man-eating tigress of
Gola-Barocha. 70km from Dudhwa, another tigress was killed after she
killed six people. On February 24, 1979 the jungles of Dudhwa saw the
death of another man-eater.
When dead the tiger that measured almost three metres was brought to
the head-office at Lakhimpur-kheri, thousands of people flock to see
the animal. Another tiger was killed in April 1980 in the forest of
the Bajarghat section in the Terai. The man-eating tiger of Bhira that
had killed ten people was shot dead on April 12, 1982.
One after another, many man-eaters showed up at Dudhwa and
disappeared. The forest officials, along with their honorary warden
Billy Arjun Singh tried to save and reform some of them. But unchecked
intrusion by people for fodder prompted the tigers to attack and kill.
Moreover, lack of simple resources like tranquillisers and adequate
skills, made trapping and relocating the animals back in the heart of
the jungle, impossible for the forest officials. The Project
Reform Tiger suffered a serious setback due to these incidents.
Billy Arjun Singh still lives in his farmhouse, Tiger Haven. The man
is so dedicated to the well being of wildlife that he has kept a
portion of his farm reserved for wild deer to graze on.
Today Dudhwa is more or less silent, although occasionally one can
hear of stray incidents of man-mauling by tigers on the peripheries.
But these instances cannot be branded as cases of man-eating. Today
Dudhwa is very much like any other National Park in the country. For
both the wild animals and the local inhabitants.