Herds of Blackbuck roam across sweeping grasslands reminiscent of Africa

Blackbuck National Park

The Blackbuck is India’s fastest ungulate and its only true antelope. Once countless thousands of graceful, agile Blackbuck roamed the flat grasslands of India, but today, only isolated populations remain.

Herds of Blackbuck roam across sweeping grasslands reminiscent of Africa

The savannah grasslands of Blackbuck National Park at Velavadar sit between two rivers just inland from the Gulf of Khambhat. This is one of the last surviving stretches of relatively undisturbed grassland renowned for its Blackbuck but also host to the Indian Wolf, striped Hyena, Jackal, and the Jungle Cat.

There are many species of birds at Velavadar, including the rare Lesser Florican that arrives at the onset of monsoon to breed. Raptors congregate in the winter. Harriers, low-flying raptors of open country that favour the grasslands, are found in good numbers as the park is considered one of the largest harrier roosting sites in the world. The rare Houbara bustard has also been spotted here.

Cheetahs & Remarkable Recoveries

This 34km2 area, the erstwhile hunting reserve of Bhavnagar’s royal family where once trained Cheetahs hunted blackbucks, was declared a sanctuary in 1969, and upgraded to a national park in 1976.

Although the Blackbuck finds mention in several Indian religious and mythological texts, this did not prevent it being persecuted to the very brink of extinction. In the last few decades, the Blackbuck has staged a remarkable recovery in Velavadar, and today its numbers here have reached nearly 2000. The involvement of the local people, especially the Kathi community, has played a critical role in safeguarding Blackbuck and other wildlife in the park, although the antelope was often perceived as a usurper of fertile agricultural land.

The re-introduction of the Cheetah in India opens up the remote possibility that some day the Blackbucks of Velavadar may once again be thankful that nature made them capable of sprinting at up to 70mph.

Experiences

Velavadar offers the fine sight of Blackbucks zipping across the plains in leaps and bounds, followed by a light-footed sprint. The male’s delicate yet lethal looking horns spiral to 60 cm in length. A legion of horns twisting above the swaying grass seems almost surreal. It is an amazing sight to see two rutting males preparing for combat, strutting with their heads held high, their splendid horns thrown back.

If you are lucky, you might see an alarmed Blackbuck leaping up in the air as if on a spring, a movement called ‘pronking’.

Across the road from the entrance to the national park, lie water bodies which host thousands of pelicans and other migratory birds during the winter season.

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