Before Independence, Dudhwa was an untamed land of marshes, grasslands and dense forests. Menacing malarial mosquitoes, recurrent plague and oppressive famines were associated with the region, making it rather inhospitable to humans, but just perfect for wildlife. By the 1950s, the marshes and grasslands were largely replaced by sugarcane and paddy. Under the guise of crop protection, the tiger and the gond, which is the local name for the barasingha, suffered terribly at the hands of poachers.

With protection, the habitat improved and soon people began to talk of the magic spell woven by nature, with help from Billy. It was only a matter of time before Dudhwa's fame led it to be declared a National Park in 1977. Thereafter no disturbance or non-wildlife oriented land management of any kind was legally permitted. But it took another 10 years before it was brought under the purview of Project Tiger.

Visitors can easily see the expanding herds of the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros Rhinocerosunicornis, the largest and the best known of the three Asiatic species of rhino that was re-introduced from Nepal and Assam. The primary needs of the pachyderms are a well-watered habitat with plenty of food and water. This is offered by the Dudhwa system in abundance. Rhinos had been wiped out from most of their earlier range in Uttar Pradesh and the idea was to translocate a viable population from Assam to restock the Dudhwaterai, initially in a protected enclosure where their young would be free from predation. There was much bad blood at the time because Assamese sentiments veered around the view that people were trying to take their tourism revenue from them! Fortunately better sense prevailed, though India did have to look towards Nepal for stocks as well.

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