I got down from the train at Agra Fort on a cold November morning and took a bus towards Bharatpur. Somewhere just after crossing Agra and driving past the villages and fields, I suddenly saw three mammals sprinting away and crossing the road quickly ahead of the bus. I could not see them clearly and thought it may be cows, but they were too fast for cows and had a more slender and agile body. Was it some kind of a deer that roamed free in unprotected areas like villages and farmlands? It seemed unlikely. How often in India do you see wild animals living far away from the forests and getting integrated with human habitat? I kept wondering what they are for a long time until I wandered into Keoladeo National Park.
Those were Blue Bulls or Nilgai. There were plenty of them in the small protected region of the park and perhaps a few roamed freely in the region around it. I do not know if these animals had learned to live with humans or were forced into it due to loss of habitat, but it was surprising to find them so far away – about 40km from Bharatpur. I doubt if there was any other forest land in the vicinity that would have given them shelter.
Though Nilgais are in large numbers in Bharatpur, they wander far and wide into the marshes and are not always seen close to the park roads. I did not see even one of them on my first day in the park and saw them from a distance on the second. However, on my last morning in the sanctuary, this fine fellow came closer to the shore and allowed me to take a few pictures.