The Viceroy and the ducks of Bharatpur

This time, I am not dealing with cricketing ducks even though Darren Bravo acquired a rare diamond duck today (a duck without facing a ball). The Keoladeo National Park (also called the Keoladeo Ghana Sanctuary earlier) at Bharatpur is one of the top birdwatching destinations in India. The inhabitants include a large number of ducks. Here are a few we encountered on a recent visit (which makes a convenient day trip out of Jaipur on the little-known Jaipur/Agra Shatabdi):



We now turn to Lord Linlithgow, Viceroy of India from 1936 to 1943. He had the longest tenure of any Viceroy but was not too successful, dealing with the Second World War, the Quit India Movement and the great famines in Bengal. But there was one thing he excelled in-shooting ducks at Keoladeo Ghana.

In the middle of the park there is a wall with a record of major duck shoots during the Raj. It records the number of ducks shot along with the number of guns in the party. Here is a small but important part of it:


Our friend and his party visited the park on 9 Nov 1936 (1415 ducks shot with 50 guns), again on 6 Dec 1936 (1476/41) and yet again on  6 Feb 1937 (2568/39).

But he was not done with slaughtering ducks yet. On 12 Nov 1938, his party with 39 guns accounted for no less than 4273 ducks (an average of 110 ducks per gun). Probably this would be a world record of some sort. This wall does attract the attention of foreign tourists; the Lonely Planet guide reports that 12 Nov 1938 was a particularly bad day to be a duck.

Fortunately the park is relatively well managed (compared to some others in the same state whose entire tiger population vanished) and is well worth a visit. There even was a resident tigress who was seen in 2005 and not again until she died in 2010. Another wandering tiger turned up later and was captured and sent to repopulate Sariska. Then there are the feral cattle who were abandoned in the park when some villagers were made to leave the area.

Residents of Delhi have a choice of trains to get there in 3 to 4 hours.