By Susan Rockroth Deo
How many national parks have you visited? Our family keeps a list. Some of us even have national park “passports” to stamp at every U.S. park we visit.
Each national park offers many ways to explore its nature, geology, and history. According to some sources, the world’s first national park was our Yellowstone National Park—set aside by the U.S. government in 1872, almost 150 years ago. Since then the U.S. and many other countries have preserved special regions of their countries as national parks. Though there is no internationally accepted definition of a national park, this one is close: “an area protected because of its natural, ecological or cultural value and where human presence (or at least human exploitation of resources) is limited.” There are now over 161,000 protected areas in the world, including terrestrial and marine preserves, national parks, wildlife refuges and scenic or historic areas.
India established its first national park, Jim Corbett National Park, 84 years ago in 1936. It now has 105 national parks and an additional number of wildlife preserves. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting three national parks in Northern India: Jim Corbett, Dudhwa and Rajaji. In Jim Corbett and Dudhwa we went on tiger hunts (of the camera kind) riding on the back of a trained elephant—the only way to go! We sat on cushions and blankets covering what is like an upside-down cot with a place to rest your feet and something to hang on to. The mahout, or driver/trainer, guided the elephant along the paths we travelled. It’s a very smooth ride, even when your elephant leans down a steep riverbank to take a drink from the river. The other advantage is you see more wildlife because the elephant’s scent masks your human scent, so wildlife isn’t as afraid. Plus, it’s a great perspective being eight or ten feet above the ground.
- The author, her daughter and trained elephant 2. Wild boar 3. Wild elephant 4. Neelkhant (Coracias bengalensis), a type of roller bird 5. Tiger footprints
The park we visited most recently was Rajaji National Park. There we took a jeep drive, rather than an elephant ride, through the park. But we did see elephants—WILD ones. Though tigers are present in all three parks, we didn’t see any. Too much forest for them to hide in. We did, however, find distinctive signs of tigers, including footprints and once, a fresh kill. Among the other animals we found were wild boar, many types of deer, monkeys, and birds, as well as intriguing plants, rivers, marshlands and forest.
I hope we get to go to India again soon as I have a list of more Indian national parks I’d like to visit! Maybe some day you will get to visit national parks in another country too. Until then, you can learn about them through information and photos online. Happy exploring!