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With the aim of protecting the relict population of Swamp deer Cervus duvauceli duvauceli, 212 sq. km of Lakhimpur-Kheri forests was declared as Dudhwa Sanctuary. In 1977, the area was declared as a National Park with a core zone of 490 sq. km and a buffer zone of 124 sq. km In 1987, the Park was brought under ‘Project Tiger’ with the addition of 201 sq. km of Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary. In the early half of 2000, Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary (400 sq. km) was included in Dudhwa National Park. Dudhwa and Kishanpur are not contiguous, and the river Sharda forms a natural barrier. The buffer zone in Dudhwa National Park (DNP) is located to the north of the core zone and still includes Tharu tribal villages. Most of the requirements of the Tharus are met by the buffer zone. About 30,000 people continue to live in an area approximately 5 sq. km i and around the Park. They are partly dependent on forest for thatching, fodder and fuel wood, and create an important management issue. The Suheli barrage adjoining Bilrayan range of the Park holds a good population of migratory waterbirds in winter. This is partly owned by the Forest Department and partly by the Irrigation Department. Dudhwa NP falls under Terai-Bhabar biogeographic subdivision of the Upper Gangetic Plains (7A) according to the biogeographic classification of Rodgers and Panwar (1988).
AVIFAUNA: The Dudhwa National Park is rich in avifauna. About 330 species of birds were recorded during three years of intensive studies at this site (Javed and Rahmani, 1998). The site falls in Biome-12, but species of biomes 5, 7, 8 and 11 are also reported from the site. BirdLife International (undated) has identified 13 species of Biome-12 (Indo-Gangetic Plains), of which six have been seen in Dudhwa grasslands, which again proves the importance of this Park for the protection of grassland birds and other animals. Of the 330 species, 112 (34%) are resident breeding birds, including important ones such as the Vulnerable Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis and Swamp Francolin Francolinus gularis. Another 31 (9%) are resident, but breeding in Dudhwa has not been confirmed. Winter migrants constitute at least 90 (26%) of the total species. The majority of these are waterfowl and there are also several species of leaf warblers Phylloscopus (Javed and Rahmani 1998). Among the habitat types, wetlands/marshland have the highest number of species (105). These two habitats also account for the highest number of threatened species (15 or 16% of the birds recorded in Dudhwa). The Sal forest has 53 bird species, and does not include any globally threatened species; however, the Pompadour Green Pigeon Treron pompadora was seen, and constituted the first record from Uttar Pradesh. Of the 330 bird species recorded in Dudhwa (Javed and Rahmani 1998), 22 (7%) are globally threatened or Near Threatened. Dudhwa has significant populations of only two species: the Bengal Florican and the Swamp Francolin. The Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica is infrequently seen. The Critically Endangered Oriental White-backed Vulture Gyps bengalensis used to breed in and around the Park in large number but its population has crashed since the mid 1990s. The Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus is another species which regularly breeds in the Park in small numbers, probably not more than 10 pairs. Pallas’s Fish-Eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus is regularly seen in the Park, but no nest has been found. There is an old record of Wood Snipe Gallinago nemoricola from the district (BirdLife International 2001). The Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis and Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris occur in Dudhwa in small numbers. At least four pairs of Near Threatened Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus are found in the Park, and a few subadults are also seen in and just outside the Park. The Bengal Florican is one of the flagship species of Dudhwa. Fortunately, since 1985 when long-term monitoring was started, its population has not decreased. Most of the territories located in the late 1980s are still occupied. Assuming that the sex ratio is equal, about 60 adult birds are found in Dudhwa (Rahmani 2001). Based on biological, socio-economic, cultural and social values, administrative importance, geographical and habitat representations, Rahmani and Islam (2000) have prioritised the grasslands of Dudhwa as Priority No. 1. According to Rahmani (1996), about 70 bird species are found in these flood plain grasslands, of which 22 species or subspecies are exclusively found here. Birds of the terai region show high dependency on the grasslands to complete their life cycle: 46 out of 70 species use these grasslands for foraging and breeding, while 23 use them for foraging only. Ten species are threatened with extinction mainly due to the destruction of these grasslands.
OTHER KEY FAUNA: Dudhwa National Park is extremely rich in fauna. Thirty-one species of large mammals have been reported from the Park, including Tiger Panthera tigris and five species of deer (Swamp Deer Cervus duvauceli, Sambar C. unicolor, Chital Axis axis, Hog Deer Axis porcinus and Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak). The terai grasslands have some of the most endangered species of India such as Swamp Deer, Hispid Hare Caprolagus hispidus and Indian One-horned Rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis. Other important mammals include Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, Sloth Bear Melursus ursinus, Ratel Mellivora capensis, Civet Viverra zibetha, Golden Jackal Canis aureus, Fishing Cat Prionailurus viverrinus, Jungle Cat Felis chaus and Leopard Panthera pardus. Crocodile Crocodylus palustris, Common Otter Lutra lutra and Monitor Lizard Varanus bengalensis can be observed near the river banks.
Key contributors: Asad R. Rahmani and Salim Javed.
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Dudhwa National Park. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/11/2021.