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Bholu Abrar Khan

Bholu Abrar Khan

Bharatpur’s Keoladeo swamps are amongst the most visited bird havens in the world today and virtually every celebrity, scientist or birder asks for and interacts with Bholu Abrar Khan, seen here with Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI).

Month Year: December 2007

WILDLIFE SERVICE AWARD

He was a mere child when his father, a cook, moved to work for the Maharaja of Bharatpur, who used to hold massive shoots for all manner of dignitaries. Years spent here saw him fall in love with birds that were once shot, and the swamps themselves became part of his soul. His father joined the forest department in 1964 and 12 years later, so did Bholu Abrar Khan. As a teenager, he used to tag along with the late Dr. Sálim Ali who visited the park frequently to ring birds and to whom Bholu Khan attributes much of his love and knowledge of birds. Recognising Bholu’s genuine interest, ‘The Old Man’ encouraged him and taught him all that anyone could ask to know about birds including identification of specimens in hand and in the field.

He also learned how to conduct bird census camps and to handle birds safely. Bharatpur is one of the world’s most-visited bird havens and in the intervening years, virtually every celebrity who visited the swamps, has asked for and interacted with Bholu. This includes conservationists, scientists and wildlifers, including Sir David Attenborough whom he accompanied during the shooting of ‘The Trials of Life’. Bholu says one of the greatest pleasures of life is sharing his knowledge and love for birds with others – even one-on-one in the park – because in his words: "from knowledge flows action". All he asks in return from those he guides through his swamps is that they lend their weight to the task on hand – to protect the birds that are now more threatened than ever in the history.

On a daily basis, he monitors the park, reporting to his superior officers all problems that comes to light, from encroachment, poaching, animal diseases, unruly visitors, arrogant VIPs. Apart from closely keeping an eye on the avian denizens of Bharatpur, Bholu lavishes large amounts of time on children, showing slides and taking on guided walks in the swamps. He also takes pains to explain to villagers how the park is critical to their future water and food security, and is reputed to have considerably smoothed relations between the park management and its surrounding local communities. Often praised for the work he does, he discounts his own role, saying: “I enjoy this work too much for it to be called work. If not for these birds, my life would have no meaning.”

He is a crucial source of strength for forest officers, researchers and wildlife crime investigators. He has unearthed violations, conducted bird and mammal censuses, sat patiently to observe the nesting behaviour of rare species, fought fires through the night and helped train the famous rickshaw-puller bird-guides of Keoladeo. Grateful for the air he breathes, he says he feels blessed to be able to wake and sleep each day to an orchestra of birds. Bholu Abrar Khan is an institution, a true ‘keeper of the swamps’.

First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXVII No. 6, December 2007.

 
 
 

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Purva Variyar

July 7, 2014, 11:22 PM
 Hate to see you retire Sir. The birds need you, we need you, the wildlife needs you.
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Gaurav T. Shirodkar

July 7, 2014, 10:58 PM
 Thank you Mr. Bholu Khan, for been there. You are an inspiration for the generations to come.
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Valmi Shah Shirodkar

July 7, 2014, 09:23 PM
 We need more "Bholu Abrar Khan" if we want to save nature.
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Alijah Mohammad

July 7, 2014, 08:41 PM
 Sir u did a great job. U set an example. We won't let u retire soon. Now it's our turn to serve u and your hard work towards wildlife AAAPKO SALAAM HAI SIR
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RajKrishnani

July 7, 2014, 07:55 PM
 Most Knowledgeable person you can come across in Bharatpur. His work has stabilized and managed the park along with his fellow officers and researches constantly helping in census and creating awareness about wildlife crimes. When it comes to sharing knowledge he is most happy to do so. Thank you for all the great work you are doing.
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Bittu Sahgal

July 7, 2014, 07:44 PM
 Bholu aap ko to hum kabhi retire nahin hone denge. Your work in Bharatpur has helped to keep this park alive for over three decades. You are a hero and Sanctuary is proud to have awarded you a Sanctuary Wildlife Service Award which you so richly deserved.