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Spectrum Tours » National parks in india » Blackbuck National Park

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In the bhal or flat grasslands of Gujarat's Saurashtra peninsula, 65 km from Bhavnagar City, is the Blackbuck (Velavadar) National Park. It is amongst the last surviving stretches of relatively undisturbed grassland renowned for Blackbuck, Wolf and Lesser Florican. This 34.08 sq km area stretches between two seasonal rivers that drain into the Gulf of Cambay. Velavadar was declared a sanctuary in 1969, and upgraded to a national park in 1976.

Bhavnagar's royal family used this area as their private grazing lands and also as a hunting reserve. Blackbuck shared the alluvial plains with large herds of livestock, and were hunted down with the help of trained cheetahs. Post-independence, the gun, the plough and livestock ravaged the wilderness and with it the Blackbuck population. Once in the countless thousands, survival even in small isolated pockets became a challenge for this charming antelope Velavadar was saved when local conservationists and the royal family stopped the practice of leasing out land for grazing and grass-cutting.

Numbering nearly 2,000 in the park, the shy Blackbuck are scattered across the endless waves of grass. The male's horns spiral to 60 em in length. A legion of horns twisting above the swaying grass seems almost surreal, and to see them zipping across the plains in leaps and bounds, Once highly persecuted, the Blackbuck has staged a remarkable recovery in Velayadar followed by a light-footed sprint, is an amazing experience. The Blackbuck is India's fastest ungulate and only true antelope. Everything about it is exquisite, even the sight of two rutting males preparing for combat, strutting with their heads held high, their splendid horns thrown back.

Blackbuck dominate the park, but there are several other mammals to see, such as jackal and jungle Cat. The Wolf just might oblige with a glimpse. Its sneaking ways have made it an animal held widely in suspicion, often falsely accused of lifting livestock when it prefers smaller prey. Its close relative, the jackal, is much less secretive and known best for a howl that pierces eerily through the dark. There are many species of birds at velavadar, including the rare Lesser Florican that comes at the onset of monsoon to breed. Raptors congregate in the winter. Harriers are low-flying raptors of open country that favour the bhal grasslands. The park is considered one of the largest harrier roosting sites in the world.

The involvement of the local people, especially the Kathi community, has played a critical role in safeguarding the Blackbuck and other wildlife in the park, although the antelope is often perceived as a usurper of fertile agricultural land. Misplaced notions need to be properly addressed or much conservation work may come to nought.

MAMMALS Blackbuck, Wolf (above), Jackal, Jungle Cat, Common Indian Mongoose, Nilgai (Blue Bull) (below), Indian Desert Gerbil, Black-naped Hare. Wild Boar

BIRDS BUSTARDS Lesser Florican, MacQueen's Bustard RAPTORS Pallid Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Short-toed Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, Laggar Falcon, Red-necked Falcon, Short-eared Owl

SCRUB/GRASS, Grey Francolin, Peck Bush Quail, Savanna Nightjar, Indian Nightjar, Sirkeer Malkoha, Blue-checked Bee-eater, Southern Grey Shrike, Crested Lark, Rufous-tailed Lark, Pufous-tailed Shrike, Desert Wheatear, Variable Wheatear, Large Grey Babbler, Black-headed Bunting, Red-headed Bunting

WATERSIDE Sarus Crane, Demoiselle Crane, Common Crane, Painted Stork, Asian Openbill, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-winged Stilt, White Stork

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