The Keoladeo National Park or Keoladeo Ghana National Park formerly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India is a famous avifauna sanctuary that plays host to thousands of birds especially during the winter season. Over 230 species of birds are known to have made the National Park their home. It is also a major tourist centre with scores of ornithologists arriving here in the hibernal season. It was declared a protected sanctuary in 1971. It is also a declared World Heritage Site.[2]

Keoladeo Ghana National Park is a man-made and man-managed wetland and one of the national parks of India. The reserve protects Bharatpur from frequent floods, provides grazing grounds for village cattle and earlier was primarily used as a waterfowl hunting ground. The 29 km2 (11 sq mi) reserve is locally known as Ghana, and is a mosaic of dry grasslands, woodlands, woodland swamps, and wetlands. These diverse habitats are home to 366 bird species, 379 floral species, 50 species of fish, 13 species of snakes, 5 species of lizards, 7 amphibian species,7 turtle species, and a variety of other invertebrates.[3] Every year thousands of migratory waterfowl visit the park for wintering breeding etc. The Sanctuary is one of the richest bird areas in the world. It is known for nesting of its resident birds and visiting migratory birds including water birds. The rare Siberian cranes used to winter in this park but this central population of Siberian cranes is now extinct. According to Peter Scott, Keoladeo Sanctuary is the world’s best bird area.

The sanctuary was created 250 years ago and is named after a Keoladeo (Shiva) temple within its boundaries. Initially, it was a natural depression; and was flooded after the Ajan Bund was constructed by Maharaja Suraj Mal, then the ruler of the princely state of Bharatpur, between 1726–1763. The bund was created at the confluence of two rivers, the Gambhir and Banganga. The park was a hunting ground for the maharajas of Bharatpur, a tradition dating back to 1850, and duck shoots were organised yearly in honor of the British viceroys. In one shoot alone in 1938, over 4,273 birds such as mallards and teals were killed by Lord Linlithgow, the then Governor-General of India.[citation needed]

The park was established as a national park on 10 March 1982. Previously the private duck shooting preserve of the Maharaja of Bharatpur since the 1850s, the area was designated as a bird sanctuary on 13 March 1976 and a Ramsar site under the Wetland Convention in October 1981.[4] The last big shoot was held in 1964 but the Maharajah retained shooting rights until 1972. In 1985, the Park was declared a World Heritage Site under the world Heritage Convention. It is a reserve forest under the Rajasthan Forest Act, 1953 and therefore, is the property of the State of Rajasthan of the Indian Union. In 1982, grazing was banned in the park, leading to violent clashes between local farmers and the government.

Keoladeo (Bharatpur) National Park (27°10'N, 77°31'E) is a World Heritage Site situated in eastern Rajasthan. The park is 2 kilometers (km) south-east of Bharatpur and 50 km west of Agra. The Park is spread over approx 29 square kilometer area. One third of the Keoladeo National Park habitat is wetland systems with varying types of microhabitats having trees, mounds, dykes and open water with or without submerged or emergent plants. The uplands have grasslands (savannas) of tall species of grass together with scattered trees and shrubs present in varying density.[4]

A similar habitat with short grasses, such as Cynodon dactylon and Dicanthium annulatum also exists. Woodlands with thickets of huge Kadam trees (Neolamarckia cadamba) are distributed in scattered pockets. Richness and diversity of plant life inside the Park is remarkable. The Park’s flora consists of 379 species of flowering plants of which 96 are wetland species. The Wetland is a part of the Indo-Gangetic Great Plains.[4]

In an area characterized by sparse vegetation, the park is the only spot which has dense vegetation and trees. The principal vegetation types are tropical dry deciduous forests intermixed with dry grasslands. Where the forest has degraded, the greater part of the area is covered with shrubs and medium sized trees. The park is a fresh water swamp and is flooded during the monsoon. For most part of the year, effective wetland is only 10 km2. The rest of the area remains dry.[4]

Dykes divide the wetland into ten units. Each unit has a system of sluice gates to control its water level. Depth of water ranges from 1 metre to 2 metre during rains (July, August and September). In subsequent months, October to January, the level gets lowered. The area starts drying from February. In May and June, the entire area dries. Water remains only in some depressions. This alternate wetting and drying helps to maintain the ecology of the fresh water swamp, ideal for water-fowl and resident water birds.


A semi-arid biotype, the park is the only area with significant vegetation, hence the term 'Ghana' meaning 'thicket'. The principal vegetation types are tropical dry deciduous forest, intermixed with dry grassland in areas where forest has been degraded. Apart from the artificially managed marshes; much of the area is covered by medium-sized trees and shrubs.

Forests, mostly in the north-east of the park, are dominated by kalam or kadam (Mitragyna parvifolia), jamun (Syzygium cumini) and babul (Acacia nilotica). The open woodland is mostly babul with a small amount of kandi (Prosopis cineraria) and ber (Zizyphus).

Scrublands are dominated by ber and kair. It is unlikely that the site would support such numbers of waterfowl as it does without the addition of water from Ajan Bund, a man-made impoundment. Soils are predominantly alluvial – some clay has formed as a result of the periodic inundations. The mean annual precipitation is 662mm, with rain falling on an average of 36 days per year.

The open woodland is mostly babul with a small amount of kandi and ber. Scrublands are dominated by ber and kair (Capparis decidua).[6]

Piloo (Salvadora oleoides and Salvadora persica) also present in the park and happens to be virtually the only woody plants found in areas of saline soil. The aquatic vegetation is rich and provides a valuable food source for waterfowl.[7] Fauna Common parakeet at Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur Rajasthan, India

Macro invertebrates such as worms, insects and mollusks, though more abundant in variety and numbers than any other group of organisms, are present mostly in aquatic habitats. They are food for many fish and birds, as well as some animal species, and hence, constitute a major link in the food chain and functioning of the ecosystem. Land insects are in abundance and have a positive effect on the breeding of land birds.

Keoladeo National Park is popularly known as “bird paradise”. Over 370 bird species have been recorded in the park. Ornithologically, the park assumes significance in two respects: One because of its strategic location as a staging ground for migratory waterfowl arriving in the Indian subcontinent before dispersing to various regions. Further waterfowl converge here before departing to breeding grounds in western Palearctic region. In addition, the wetland is a wintering area for massive congregations of waterfowl. It is also the only regular wintering area in India for the critically endangered Siberian crane.[7] Waterfowl Painted stork at Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, Bharatpur, Rajasthan India A view of the Keoladeu National park wetland from a boat A view of the Keoladeu National park

The park's location in the Gangetic Plain makes it an unrivalled breeding site for herons, storks and cormorants, and an important wintering ground for large numbers of migrant ducks. The most common waterfowl are gadwall, shoveler, common teal, cotton teal, tufted duck, comb duck, little cormorant, great cormorant, Indian shag, ruff, painted stork, white spoonbill, Asian open-billed stork, oriental ibis, darter, common sandpiper, wood sandpiper and green sandpiper. The sarus crane, with its spectacular courtship dance, is also found here.[7] Landbirds

Among landbirds are a rich assortment consisting of warblers, babblers, bee-eaters, bulbuls, buntings, chats, partridges and quails. The Indian grey hornbill and Marshall's iora are also present. There are many birds of prey including the osprey, peregrine, Pallas' sea eagle, short-toed eagle, tawny eagle, imperial eagle, spotted eagle and crested serpent eagle. The greater spotted eagle has recently been recorded breeding here, a new breeding record for the species in India.[7] Mammals Sambar are common sight at Keoladeo Ghana National Park Bharatpur India A neel gai inside Keoladeo national park

Mammalian fauna of Keoladeo National Park is equally rich with 27 identified species.[7] Nilgai, feral cattle, and chital deer are common while sambar are few. Wild boar and Indian porcupine are often spotted sneaking out of the Park to raid crop fields. Two mongoose species, the small Indian mongoose and the common Indian gray mongoose, are occasionally found. Cat species present include the jungle cat and the fishing cat. The Asian palm civet and the small Indian civet are also present, but rarely sighted. The smooth-coated otter can be seen attacking birds such as coots and at times crossing the woodlands. Jackals and hyenas are also sighted and have taken up the role of predators and feed on birds and rodents. Many species of rats, mice, gerbils and bats are also found in the park.[3] Other species Indian Saras crane

Fish fauna of the park comprises 43 species, of which 37 enter the park along with the water from Ajan Bund, and six species are breeding residents. During a good rainy season the park receives around 65 million fish fry and fingerlings. The fish population and diversity are og high ecological importance as they form the food source of many birds.

The herpetofauna of Keoladeo National Park is diverse. Out of the ten species of turtles that are seen in Rajasthan, seven are present in this park. Besides this, there are five lizard species, thirteen snake species and seven species of amphibians. The bullfrog and skipper frog are commonly found in the wetlands. It is often easy to see a python out of its burrow and basking in the sun on a sunny winter day. The common monitor lizard, Indian porcupine and bi-colored leaf-nose bat have been seen in the same burrow as that of the python. The poisonous snakes found in the park are krait, cobra and Russell’s viper. Primates include the rhesus macaque and langurs. Large predators are absent, leopards having been deliberately exterminated by 1964, but small carnivores include Bengal fox, jackal, striped hyena, common palm civet, small Indian civet, Indian grey mongoose (Herpestes edwardsi), fishing cat, leopard cat, jungle cat and smooth-coated otter. Ungulates include blackbuck, chital, sambar, hog deer, nilgai and wild boar and feral cattle.[7] Other mammals include Indian porcupine and Indian hare. During 2007 and 2008 attempts were been made to eradicate the mesquite Prosopis juliflora and specimens of the asteraceous genus Cineraria to prevent the park being overrun with these invasive species and to assist natural vegetation in recovering. World Heritage Site Eurasian spoonbill

To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. These criteria are explained in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention which, besides the text of the Convention, is the main working tool on World Heritage. The criteria are regularly revised by the Committee to reflect the evolution of the World Heritage concept itself. The UNESCO convention for listing goes on to explain the criteria the selection of Keoladeo Ghana National Park as a World Heritage Site under the Natural Criteria iv of Operational Guidelines 2002 and the description which follows is that the park is a “Habitat of rare and endangered species. The park is a wetland of international importance for migratory waterfowl. It is the wintering ground for the rare Siberian crane and habitat for large numbers of resident nesting birds.” According to the revised Operational Guidelines of 2005, the park falls under Criteria (x) which states that to be conferred the status of World Heritage, the site should “contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-site conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.”[2]

The management objective is to allow the area to flood and dry out annually, rather than be maintained as a system of permanent marshes. Water for the wetlands is supplied from the dam outside the park boundaries. Usually some 14.17 million cubic meters of water is the estimated annual requirement of the park. The water level inside the park is regulated by means of dykes and artificial embankments. The alternative arrangement of water in case of emergencies such as danger of marshes and water bodies drying out completely is ensured through four boreholes so that survival of the aquatic flora and fauna is not endangered before the arrival of monsoon. The boundaries of the park are clearly delineated by a thirty two Kilometer long boundary encircling the park restricting the encroachment of humans and domestic cattle inside the perimeters of the park. The road from Bharatpur town which used to intersect the park was also closed and relocated outside the boundary to reduce the disturbance by visitors from the town which helped in bringing down the levels of pollution inside the park considerably. As opposed to most of the national parks in India and elsewhere, Bharatpur Bird sanctuary has no buffer zone. Due to the heavy density of population and more than 15 villages settled on the periphery of park, it was impossible for authorities to create a buffer zone around the bird sanctuary. Grazing and collection of firewood and grass was phased out from the park as far back as 1983.






Uganda Safaris to National Parks: Black and White Colobus Monkey is one of 13 primates of the park.Uganda Safaris to National Parks: Black and White Casqued Hornbill Flying.

Black and White Colobus Monkey is one of 13 primates of the park.

Black and White Casqued Hornbill Flying.     



Uganda Safaris to National Parks: Chimp bored with visitors.Uganda Safaris to National Parks: Chimpanzee feeding.

Chimpanzee yawning.

Chimpanzee feeding.


Uganda Safaris to National Parks: Reflecting Chimp.Uganda Safaris to National Parks: Chimp investigating visitors.

Murchison Falls as the water squeezes through an 8m gap. Chimpanzee reflecting about the importance of visitors in the park for his well-being. 

Murchison and Uhuru Falls.Chimpanzee investigating a group of visitors on a Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Park.



Uganda Safaris to National Parks: Warthog grazing.Uganda Safaris to National Parks: Panther in Kibale National Park

Warthog grazing. 

Panther in the forest of Kibale National Park.



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