Situated on the Indo-Nepal border in District Lakhimpur-Kheri of Uttar Pradesh, the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve with an area of 614 sq. Km is one of the finest, of the few remaining examples of the exceedingly diverse and productive tarai eco-systems. The northern edge of the reserve lies along the Indo-Nepal border and the southern boundary is marked by the river Suheli. It is home to a large number of rare and endangered species which includes Tiger, Leopard, Swamp deer, Hispid hare, Bengal Florican, etc. The Kishanpur Sanctuary located about 30 km from Dudhwa, is the other constituent of the reserve. Spread over about 200 sq. km it lies on the banks of the River Sharda and is surrounded by Sal forests of the adjoining reserved forests.
The grasslands of the reserve are the habitat of the largest kind of Indian deer-the Swamp deer or the Barasingha, so called because of their magnificent antlers (bara-twelve;singha-antler). Decline in their habitats led to a drastic decline in numbers and a small area named Sonaripur Sanctuary was set aside in 1958 for the conservation of this rare species of deer. Later, it was upgraded to cover an area of 212 sq. km and was renamed the Dudhwa Sanctuary. In 1977, the area was further extended to include over 614 sq. km and was declared a National Park. Eleven years later, in 1988, when Dudhwa became a part of Project Tiger, the area of the Kishanpur Sanctuary was added to create the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve. About 1800 Barasingha are to be found in the reserve and majestic herds are especially seen in the grassy wetlands of the Sathania and Kakraha blocks.
The Reserve has a range of fascinating wildlife. Included the are sloth bear, ratel, civet, jackal, the lesser cats like the leopard cat, fishing cat and jungle cats; varieties of deer – the beautiful spotted deer or chital, hog deer and barking deer. The hispid hare, a dark brown animal with bristly fur – last seen in the area in 1951 and believed to have become extinct, was rediscovered in 1984 to the great interest of conservationists. The short nosed crocodile – the mugger and otters can be seen along the river banks as well as pythons and monitor lizards. A bird watchersâ€™ haven, Dudhwa is also noted for its wide variety-about 400 species. Its swamps and several lakes attracts varieties of waters fowl. Being close to the Himalayan foothills, Dudhwa also gets its regular winter visitors – the migratory water birds. The Banke Tal is perhaps the most popular spot for bird watchers. There are egrets, cormorants, heron and several species of duck, geese and teal.
Noted for the variety of storks that make their home here, Dudhwa has the crane-elegant in its grey and red livery, black necked storks, white-necked storks, painted storks, open billed storks and adjutant storks. Raptors like the grey headed fishing eagle, Pallas fishing eagle and marsh harriers can be seen circling over the lakes in search of prey – creating pandemonium among the water fowl as they swoop low. An extraordinary range of owls are also to be found at the Reserve. These include the great Indian horned owl, the brown fish owl, the dusky horned owl, scoops owl, jungle owlet, the brown wood owl and tawny fish owl. Colourful birds – varieties of woodpeckers,barbets, minivets, bulbuls, kingfishers, bee eaters, orioles, drongos and hornbills are all part of its rich bird life.
Dudhwa has also the ideal kind of terrain for the Indian rhino. Once found here in large numbers, they had been hunted down and had completely disappeared from this area by 1878. More lately, it was feared that epidemics and disease would wipe out the existing populations of rhino in Assam, West Bengal and Nepal and a decision was taken to distribute some in other suitable areas. In an exciting experiment, one male and five female rhinos were relocated here from Assam and Nepal, in 1985. Now well-settled in Dudhwa, their numbers have increased. At present, tourists are not allowed in the rhino area.
Dudhwa, on North-Eastern Railwayâ€™s metre guage section is connected via Mailani to Lucknow & Nainital.Â Dudhwa is connected by metalled road to other parts of the state.Â Coaches and jeeps can be hired from national park office at Dudhwa for travelling inside the Park. Elephants are available for wildlife viewing at Dudhwa only.Â UPSRTC and private bus services link Palia to Lakhimpur Kheri, Shahjahanpur, Bareilly, Delhi etc. Buses ply frequently between Palia and Dudhwa.