Things to know about the Dudhwa National Park

On my second trip to Dudhwa, I asked the locals and the natives of that place what is the meaning of Dudhwa. The answer I got – there was a big collection center of the cow milk (“Dudh” is a Hindi word which means milk). There were big-big grasslands across this Tarai (Terai) belt where the castles used to graze and the villagers had good Dudh (milk) produce. This is how the place called Dudhwa.

Billy Arjan Singh founder of Dudhwa National Park

The Post-Independence era witnessed tremendous encroachment towards the Dudhwa jungle. As a result, the forest was converted in agricultural land. Additionally, due to its location on the Indo-Nepal border, the chances of poaching and hunting enhanced to a greater extent and the trading of the wild animals increased to a massive extent who sell their products in Nepal, which is a tourist place gives them a huge market for these things.

The story of the tiger reserve in Dudhwa is the story of the Billy Arjan Singh. A royal prince from the Kapurthala family, born in Gorakhpur Uttar Pradesh, Arjan Singh was an unstoppable hunter until one night when he experienced a Damascene conversion after shooting a leopard.

From that night, this royal brat was to be transformed into one of India’s greatest wildlife conservationists and wildlife author. He was the first who tried to reintroduce tigers and leopards from captivity into the wild. To fulfill his pledge of protecting the dwindling wild animals, Billy found a small place in the evergreen and swamp jungles of Dudhwa. He settled in a small hut (which was later transformed into a lodge) and lived there all his life. During the course of his life, he saved lots of wild animals, starting with a herd of Swamp Deer (Barasingha) on the Satiana side of the Dudhwa forest.

In 1968, Billy Arjan Singh, operating out of his farm in Kheri, which he christened ‘Tiger Haven’, began his battle to protect Dudhwa. His efforts resulted in an area of 212 sq. km. being declared as Dudhwa Sanctuary in the same year. With protection, the habitat improved and soon people began to talk of the magic spell woven by nature, with help from Billy.

The area was established in 1958 as a wildlife sanctuary for swamp deer. With the tireless efforts of Arjan Singh, the forest was declared Dudhwa National Park in 1977. In 2006, he was awarded the high civilian honor of Padma Shri for his work towards protecting wild animals. In 1976, he was awarded the World Wildlife Fund’s Gold Medal, the WWF’s premier award, for his conservation work.