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Desert National Park | For that Bustard feeling

8:47 pm | | Comments 6

Well, worst of summer is over. Although with onset of Monsoon, humidity will keep pushing us to limits. It’s safe to be in homes therefore due to all sorts of reasons, and surely weather is the least of our concern. In any case, by the time it is safe or rather safer (than now) to travel in times of COVID19, it will be already winter perhaps. So, travelling to desert won’t be a bad option. This post is regarding keeping yourself ready for it, or giving you just another travel idea.

Map of the Desert National Park
All the birds that are found here and they are really too many, including the migratory ones.

In Indian hot desert of Thar, Jaisalmer is already a hotspot for tourists. But among the attraction of usuals glamorous tourist spots like Sam Dunes, Sonar fort, havelis, Bada Bagh few others are constantly missed. One prominent among them is the Desert National Park. 

Huts at the Sudasari check post of Desert National Park

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Open roof safari bus for the enthusiasts to take them inside the park

The Desert National Park displays the best of the Thar desert’s ecosystem and its varied wildlife. The Park is formed of undulating sand dunes, jagged rocks, dense salt lake bottoms. Various species of animals such as black buck, chinkara and desert fox inhabit the Park. In winter, the park hosts an incredible variety of migratory raptors such Himalayan and Eurasian Griffon Vultures, Eastern Imperial Eagle, and the Saker Falcon. Park is also known for Indian Desert Monitor and bigger Monitor Lizards. You could be lucky enough to spot a Great Horned Owl at DNP.

Black bucks at the Desert National Park
Rugged, barren land out there in the Desert National Park

It is unlike any other safari you would do in any other National Park or wildlife reserve in India. Rugged terrain, sand dunes, hot weather, camouflaged surroundings make it a bit challenging. There will be no shade, no big trees, nothing that hides wildlife from you. But everything around you will be so uncoloured, so dusty and hazy that you will find it tough to focus and spot things. Moreover most of the wildlife found here is of almost the same skin colour as desert, making them hard to spot.

Black bucks and the Great Indian Bustard at Desert National Park

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A black buck quite aware of the camera clicking it

Blackbucks are aplenty as there are no big cats to feed upon them. But the park is best known for the highly endangered Great Indian Bustard— one of the world’s heaviest flying birds—locally known as Godawan (गोडावण). How seriously it is endangered can be understood by the fact that only around 150 great Indian bustard (GIB) are left in India today and of them about 122 are in Rajasthan, concentrated near the Desert National Park in the western front. There number was about 1,260 in 1969. So, we see that it is dwindling continuously. Thus there number isn’t the same as was when I visited this park and it won’t be what it is today when probably you visit the park next. Chances of sighting them will thus diminish more. I was fortunate to see a group close by through naked eyes. Today, most wildlife enthusiasts feel lucky enough if they are able to spot them through powerful binoculars in the vastness of this unforgiving desert.

A group of Great Indian Bustards at Desert National Park

At first sight, the Great Indian Bustard certainly doesn’t look as if it needs protecting. Towering at a metre tall, this imposing, robust bird struts slowly through the grassland of the Indian subcontinent as if it owned the place. And once upon a time, it did. Formerly widespread and abundant, this nomadic bustard made yearly journeys between India and Pakistan – a relatively modest migration compared to some species, but no mean feat for one of the world’s heaviest flying birds. According to a report by Wildlife Institute of India, the bird was once abundant in Kutch, Nagpur, Amravati, Solapur, Bellary, and Koppal districts in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka.Today, it is one of the most critically endangered bird species in the world. Once the frontrunner to be named India’s national bird, the Great Indian Bustard has long been on the brink of extinction. It is still the state bird of Rajasthan. 

Seeing one of the heaviest birds flying is indeed a delight

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Great Indian Bustards roaming around in the park

There have been many reasons for this dwindling numbers and hunting is one of them. It is said that historically, the Houbara bustard or MacQueen’s Bustard (similar to the Great Indian Bustard) was once a commonly hunted bird, and India would officially invite royal guests from foreign countries on hunting expeditions. This was until the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 came into being. Although it became illegal thereafter, the GIB continued to be hunted, mainly for the consumption of its meat.

A pair of rare red-headed black vultures at Desert National Park

Globally and in India, high voltage power lines are also a major threat to the Great Indian Bustard. The bird is said to have poor frontal vision, which restricts it from spotting power lines early. This bird is known to eat insects, harvested foodgrains, and fruit. The uncontrolled use of pesticides and insecticides in farms has also badly hit their food habitat.

A big Euphorbia Caducifolia tree locally known as Danda Thor

Recently a project was initiated by a wildlife biologist couple to involve the local community in conservation of bustards, that also indirectly gives them monetary benefit. Under the project a select group of youngsters are trained to become nature guides. Besides being guides, they help the conservationists in keeping track of the location of the Bustards and inform the forest department of any attempts of poaching of any wildlife in the area.

Water in small tanks is kept for wild animals to quench their thirst

Quick bits

Best way to enter the Desert National Park is through Sudasari Check Post. It is over 45 kms from Jaisalmer city. Since this place is in desert wilderness, you won’t get any public transport to reach here. You will have to hire a vehicle from the city. Safari can be done in two ways- open roof buses run by the park or a camel cart. Camel cart won’t cover too much of a distance, but it can take you close enough without making any noise or scaring any animal. It can also take you off-road where bus won’t be able to go. For all those, who want to be really close, the park also has a limited number of huts for tourists to stay but only with basic amenities. Don’t expect a luxury stay.

Sudasari check post of the Desert National Park is the best to enter park
This desert wilderness has a beauty in itself

Carry enough drinking water as you won’t get any during the safari. Check post does have water- tapped as well as bottled. Also keep something to chew and munch but don’t litter around inside the park. Binoculars and tele lens for photographers will be good to spot birds, specially Great Indian Bustard. Needless to say that earlier part of the day is best to take a safari in this desert.

Local women and families working near the Desert National Park

So, next time you visit Jaisalmer, make sure to spare a half day for desert safari. You will not only have a chance to see some very rare wildlife, but you will actually also be helping the local community and the conservation of some endangered species. Do make a point!

Huts for tourists at the Desert National Park
Inside a hut for the tourists at Desert National Park

Have you visited Desert National Park? Have you been lucky enough to spot a Great Indian Bustard? Share your experience with us in the comments section below.

A camel cart ride inside the Desert National park

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Comments

  1. fabulous wild life informative post thanks for sharing with us

    1. swamiupendra says:

      Thanks a lot Pushpendra Ji.

  2. Varun Sharma says:

    I visited there in 2016. I remember, we did so much fun there and enjoyed every moment there.

    1. swamiupendra says:

      Indeed Varun, this place is indeed fun of a different type. Thanks a lot

  3. Wow, I visited Thar today through your blog’ thank you
    Stay safe and healthy

    1. Upendra Swami says:

      Thanks a lot for dropping by.

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