Royal Bardia National Park

This national park in mysterious seldom-visited western Nepal was first set aside, like betterknown Chitwan, as a royal hunting preserve where tigers, rhinoceros, sloth bears, and others were slaughtered for sport. Paradoxically this may have contributed to its ultimate salvation since it meant the land was already put aside and available when the government decided in 1976 the time had come for a national park here. Now Bardia’s 374 square miles (968 km2) are haven to thousands of rare animals and birds whose survival without it would be doubtful.

Magnificent Bengal tigers are equally at home in its grassland patches and tropical dry deciduous forest dominated by stately sal trees. There they prey on sambar and barking deer and— occasionally and carefully—on fat but prickly porcupines. Shaggy, irritable sloth bears are here also, but the two generally give each other a wide berth. Bears are looking mainly for succulent vegetation and tall termite mounds to raid.

Leopards are here, also civets, monkeys, and such wary predators as hyenas, wild dogs, and jackals, and, trying to escape their notice in the tall grass, hispid hares, believed extinct here until recent sightings. Huge droppings, uprooted trees, and other trees stripped of their bark mean elephants have passed by.

Two of the commonest and most spectacular among Bardia’s 350 bird species are peacocks and jungle fowl, the latter strutting predecessors of all barnyard roosters. But there are also bright sunbirds, kingfishers, and migratory waterfowl seasonally in large numbers in the Karnali-Girwa and Babai Rivers, where gray-and-crimson wall creepers dart about gorge cliffs.

In the mosaic of riverine forest and grassland dominated by giant-buttressed simul trees are barasinghas or swamp deer, blackbucks, and ungainly nilgai, the subcontinent’s largest antelope. A few one-horned rhinoceros, transplanted from Chitwan in a joint government–World Wide Fund for Nature project, hold their own and spend time in low savannahs.

In the rivers are Gangetic dolphins and otters, and basking on banks, occasional crocodiles.

Best times are November–May.

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