NAME Keioladeo National Park
LOCATION 27*07'-27*12'N, 77*29'-77*33'E. Situated in eastern Rajasthan, the park is 2km south-east of Bharatpur and 50km west of Agra.
DEGREE OF PROTECTION State owned. The area was declared a national park on 10 March 1982, and accepted as a World Heritage Site in December 1985. 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 1956 and a Ramsar site in October 1981. The last big shoot was held in 1964, but the Maharajah retained shooting rights until 1972.
SITE DESCRIPTION The site comprises a freshwater swamp which is part of the Indogangetic Great Plains. For much of the year, however, the wetland area is only some 1,000ha. The area is flooded in the monsoon (July-September) to an average depth of 1-2m. From October to January the water level gradually falls, and from February the land begins to dry out. By June only some water remains. The environment is partly man-made with dykes dividing the area into 10 units, each with a system of sluice gates to control water level. 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 aquatic vegetation is rich and provides a valuable food source for waterfowl. Species include water lilies Nymphea nouchatia, N. stellata and N. cristata, the true lotus Nilumbium sp., duckweeds Lemna sp. water fern Azolla sp., Vallisneria sp., Hydrilla sp., Naga sp., Chara sp., Ipoma sp., sedges Cyperus sp. and lesser reedmace Typha angustata. There is also wild rice. Other vegetation is characteristic of a semi arid zone dominated by babul Acacia nilotica, ber Zizyphus mauritiana, khejri Prosopis cineraria, Salvadora oleoides, S. persica and Capparis aphylla. The fauna includes: rhesus macaque Macaca mulatta, langur Presbytis entellus, small carnivores such as Bengal fox Vulpes bengalensis, jackal Canis aureus, striped hyena Hyaena hyaena, common palm civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus, small Indian civet Viverricula indica, Indian grey mongoose Herpestes edwardsi, fishing cat Felis viverrina, leopard cat F. bengalensis, jungle cat F. chaus and smooth-coated otter Lutra perspicillata. Ungulates include blackbuck Antilope cervicapra (60), chital Cervus axis (350), sambar C. unicolor, hog deer C. porcinus, nilgai Boselaphus tragocamelus (480) and wild boar Sus scrofa. The figures in brackets refer to the number of animals counted in the 1980 census. Other mammals include Indian porcupine Hystrix indica and Indian hare Lepus nigricollis.
INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL IMPORTANCE The site supports some 364 bird species and is considered to be one of the world's best and richest bird areas. It is the major wintering ground of the western population of the endangered Siberian crane Grus leucogeranus. A total of 41, including eight young, were recorded in December 1984, the highest number for many years (ICBP, 1985) but there were only 19 in 1988-89. Other species include gadwall Anas strepera, shoveler A. clypeata, common teal A. crecca, cotton teal Nettapus coromandelianus, tufted duck Aythya fuligula, comb duck Sarkidiornis melanotos, white spoonbill Platalea leucorodia, little cormorant Phalacrocorax niger, cormorant P. carbo, Indian shag P. fuscicollis, painted stork Ibis leucocepalus, Asian open-billed stork Anastomus oscitans, oriental ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus, ruff Philomachus pugnax (probably the most abundant wader), darter Anhinga melanogaster, spot-billed pelican Pelecanus philippensis, common sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, wood sandpiper Tringa glareola, green sandpiper T. ochropus and Sarus crane Grus antigone. There are many birds of prey including osprey Pandion haliaetus, peregrine Falco peregrinus, Pallas' fish eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus, short-toed eagle Circaetus gallicus, tawny eagle Aquila rapax, imperial eagle A. heliaca, spotted eagle A. clanga and crestedserpent eagle Spilornis cheela.
CHANGES IN ECOLOGICAL CHARACTER Leopard Panthera pardus has not been seen since its extermination from the area in 1964. Previous threats from fishing and cattle grazing have now been eliminated. The high level of pollutants in Arjan Bundh is believed to be responsible for the increasing number of piscivorous birds seen in a dazed state and unable to fly. Notably fewer birds were recorded in 1984 than in previous years. Disturbance from visitors can be cause for concern. The ban on grazing (November 1982) has caused local resentment, and aquatic plant growth is no longer kept in check. Also livestock dung provided nutrients and supported insects. The Ramsar Monitoring Procedure was applied in November 1988 because of concern that the lack of grazing was leading to weed infestation and loss of wetland.
MANAGEMENT PRACTICES Water levels are regulated to benefit waterfowl. If the wetland is in danger of drying out completely there are arrangements to pump water from deep wells to ensure the survival of aquatic flora and fauna until the next monsoon. The boundaries are clearly delineated by a 32km long, 2m high stone wall, which totally encloses the park to prevent humans and domestic livestock from trespassing. Due to the dense human settlement surrounding the park, there is no possibility of creating a buffer zone. The road from Bharatpur town, which bisected the park, has been closed and relocated outside the boundaries. This has considerably reduced the level of disturbance by visitors from the town. Grazing and the collection of firewood and khus grass Vetiveria zizenoides were phased out in 1983. The absence of grazing, which is now believed to keep waterways open, is causing management problems as vegetation blocks up the channels. Remedial measures taken to control plant growth include manual removal of weeds and bulldozing. Burning and introduction of ungulates is under consideration.
SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND FACILITIES The Bombay Natural History Society has carried out bird ringing in the area for the past 20 years. Limnological studies are carried out by the Zoology Department of the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur. Monitoring of the population dynamics of birds has been undertaken by the park management. Under the Deputy Chief Wildlife Warden are a research officer, forester, three rangers, 20 wildlife guards, clerks and an accountant.
REFERENCES The above information is taken from documents supplied by the Government of India for designation in 1981 and for the Groningen Meeting in May 1984, and from Monitoring Procedure Report No. 7.
Abdulali, H. and Panday, J.D. (1978). Checklist of the birds of Delhi, Agra and Bharatpur. Unpublished report.
Ali, S. (1953). The Keoladeo Ghana of Bharatpur (Rajasthan). Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 51: 531-536.
Ali, S. and Hussain, S.A. (1982). Studies on the movement and population structure of Indian avifauna. Annual Report II. Bombay Natural History Society, Bombay.
Breeden, S. and Breeden, B. (1982). The drought of 1979-1980 at the Keoladeo Ghana Sanctuary, Bharatpur, Rajasthan. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 79: 1-37.
Breeden, S. and Breeden, B. (1982-1983). A year at Bharatpur's Keoladeo National Park. Hornbill 1982 (3,4) and 1983 (1,2).
Grimwood, I.R. (1981). Impact of tourism on national parks in India. WWF-India. Unpublished report. Pp. 15-20.
ICBP (1985). World Birdwatch 7(1): 4.
Jackson, P. (1983). Crisis for birds and buffalos at Bharatpur. Unpublished report. 3 pp.
Saxena, V.S. (1975). A study of the flora and fauna of Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. Department of Tourism, Jaipur, Rajasthan.
Spillett, J.J. (1967). A report on wild life surveys in North India and southern Nepal: the large mammals of the Keoladeo Ghana Sancutary, Rajasthan. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 63: 602-607.