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Friday, June 18, 2010

Pench National Park

Seoni the famous little township in Madhya Pradesh near Jabalpur is surrounded by dense forests that are referred as Seoni Hills. Rudyard Kipling in "Jungle Book"  describes the escapade of child reared by wolf pack. It is said that Lt.Moor a British first sighted Mowgli near the village of Sant Vavadi. Capt. Sleeman wrote an account of Mowgli in his book "Rambles and Recollections". 

Kipling is said to have visited Seoni Hills which were then contiguous with what is now Kanha National Park. The British writer made Mowgli the wolf child immortal by writing "Jungle Book". The Seoni Hills are part of Central Indian Highlands that Capt Forsyth accounted for in his book "The Highlands of Central India". 

The British loved to explore and what better scape than that of "Jewel in the Crown". The exploratory zeal contributed a lot to understanding the natural history of India. The taxonomic classification of  Indian wild animals and birds was efficiently carried out by wild life lovers and English ornithologist during the British Raj.

Pench National Park a tiger reserve is part of Seoni Hills and tigers survive here. A wolf pack was seen on road to Turia Gate from Khawasa few years back. But the expanding humanity is driving peripheral wildlife out of their preferred habitats all over in the tiger reserve.


Pench biodiversity is impressive. A dry deciduous mixed forest, the preserve supports wide variety of Central Indian mammals. The terrain is undulating with low lying hills, grassy valleys and dense forest canopies. It is home to tigers, leopards, wolf, wild dog, bison, sambar deer and four horned deer. Barking deers are sen often while squirrel, jungle cat, nilgai, spotted deer, langur, rhesus macaque, wild boar and jackals are commonly seen. Fox, ratel, civet cats,  hyena, and porcupine are by nature nocturnal. Sloth bear and leopard are seen with luck. Recent leopard sightings have been surprisingly frequent.  

Pench has more than seven hundred bison or gaur. The coarse feeders are a prominent feature of the park with large herds sighted often. The wolf once common is a rare sight suggesting an endangered status. Like is all tiger reserve of Central India hyena is not sighted often. This is due to occupation of open country and scrub forest habitats by villages and resorts in the immediate periphery.

The bird life is rich but requires more work to be done by ornithologists. Raptors are very visible and so are many other birds. Along with Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Nauradehi WLS, Pench is ideal for forest birding.  The latter two offer wetland bird sightings as well. Though very popular for tiger safari birding in the tiger reserves is on increase. Pench offers exciting potential for bird watching tours in Madhya pradesh in India.

Tree line is mix with scattered patches of bamboo perhaps planted . Neither Teak nor Sal dominates here the latter appears to be very scarce.  Lyndia, Saja, Kullu, Harra, Bahera, Dhak, Tendu, Kosum, Salai, Haldu, Bija are common floral elements along with dazzling mix of herbs and shrubs. Grassland and edaphic meadows are feeding grounds of herbivores.       

Pench River is the life line of this ecosystem but dries out to a large extant in summers. The Totlah Doh Hydroelectric Dam has a submergence are of more than fifty square km of what was once the finest forest zone in the reserve. Water holes are scattered but support wildlife in the park. 

Tiger conservation has been successful in the reserve but the danger of poaching are evident as few year back tiger and other animals were electrocuted right next to the Karmajhiri RH. In case of lack of vigilance the National Park could face poaching incidences that could endanger the tiger and other animals.

Pench is accessible from Nagpur airport a good eighty km of drive while it is approx 200 km from Jabalpur which is connected by air service from New Delhi. It is six to seven hours drive to Kanha National Park from here.

Accommodation is in plenty with many jungle resorts available along with luxury hotels and many jungle camps.  Accommodation ranges from budget to super luxurious. During holiday rush one needs to book rooms or jungle plans in advance. The entry to the park is limited an safari should be booked much in advance.

All seasons are good for wildlife watching but winters are best for birding as migrants add up the numbers of species. Combining your tiger safari tour with a visit to Kanha National Park would add to your experience of wildlife safaris in Central India.        

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Panna National Park

Situated in Panna District of Madhya Pradesh in Central India this beautiful preserve has been much in the center of controversy. Contrary to claims made by the CCF of MP there were no tigers left in the reserve as declared by a committee report in June 2009. Of late tigers from Bandhavgarh and Kanha have been relocated here in order to restore tiger population. The trans location program is showing success as a tigress has given birth to two cubs. Another tigress is expected to reproduce. 

Panna National Park also tiger reserve along with Sariska highlights the state of tiger conservation in India. The 543 sq.km park lost all its tigers. No attention was paid to dwindling number of tigers as per alarm created by researchers. The authorities were busy with counter claims as usual and in the process the remaining number of tigers fell prey to the poachers with ease.  

Besides tigers (Oof) the park is home to leopards, sloth bear, chinkara, spotted deer, sambar, wild dog, jackal, caracal, wolf, four horned deer, hyena, fox, nilgai and jungle cat. There are more than two hundred bird species that can be found in the reserve along with reptiles and large number of butterflies. 

The dry deciduous forest type are unique with Kardhai forest zones, besides, teak, tendu, mahua, char, kullu, bel, harra and other species. The grasslands are extensive with tall and short grasses.    

Ken River Sanctuary is the life line of this ecosystem and is the habitat of mugger and gharial. The number of gharial is low in this pristine river. More reptiles are being released here in order to restore the ecological balance and save the endangered species. 

Though tiger sightings may not be possible any more in this tiger reserve one can see many wild animals and enjoy bird watching. There are many jungle lodges, hotels and wildlife resorts that offer accommodation outside the park. For inbound tourists package tours are available by tour operators in India. These packages are affordable and well designed.   

Next interesting destination is the Khajuraho Temples which are around 45 km from the National Park. One can easily drive down from Panna to the temples at Khajuraho for sightseeing. The temple complex town has an airport connected with New Delhi, Mumbai and other major towns in India. 

Panna is connected with Satna, Katni, Jhansi rail heads and is about seven hours drive to Bandhavgarh tiger reserve. Panna can also be reached via Jabalpur which is connected to New Delhi by rail and flight service.     

Monday, June 14, 2010

Kanha Wildlife

Though the tiger is the main attraction in Kanha the park is home to many wild animals in India. The most attractive mega fauna is of course the rare hard ground swamp deer. This sub species of deer is found only at Kanha and is surviving precariously after a remarkable come back from brink of extinction. The deer was saved in the nick of the time. 

Indian bison or Gaur is an ox race  and is doing well in the park. Around 1976 disease rinderpest and FPL either of the two wiped out a large population. Thankfully the population has recovered and herds can be seen at Kisli range in summers. There has to be strict implementation of inoculating live stock in the surroundings. 

Samabar deer the largest in the Asia survives in good numbers here and can be seen often especially in the evening hours. Sambar along with the ubiquitous spotted deer constitutes the main prey base of the tigers in the wild.     

On tiger safaris one can see barking deer, four horned deer and of late the mouse deer has been discovered in the park. The leopard is often seen with luck and so is the sloth bear. Wild dogs are seen more often in Kanha and Kisli ranges. Langurs, wild boars, rhesus macaque, jackal and peacock are widespread in the preserve and regularly seen.One can take a peak at the Indian python around the numerous water holes.

During a night safari outside the park confines one can come across many nocturnal animals - civets, hare, ratel, porcupine and perhaps hyena or wolf. Late evening hours are ideal for sighting leopards on night safaris. Park safari inside the park is not allowed hence one should drive along common roads in the periphery. Using flash light is not advisable. 

The ensuing tiger chase prevents experiencing the over all diversity of flora and fauna in the preserve. The focus of attention on tiger safaris is the tiger. This is understandable as the animal holds mesmerizing charisma and a mystic appeal among most humans. Nevertheless once you have encountered a tiger then go in for a holistic appraisal of the landscape, wildlife and bird life in order to make your visit meaningful. 

The tiger is usually sighted on jeep safari in four or five rounds but in most cases  tiger sighting would  take place in one and two rounds. Tiger show much touted as cola show lets many tourists have a close look at this nature's wonder. The sight of the tiger is the wild is amazing experience and turns many into sympathizers of our wilderness.         

For regular visitors the park offers a chance to study Kanha wildlife and birds as amateurs this is good. Awareness of our nature helps us conserve better. There are many wildlife photographers visiting the National Park especially during the hot months of summer.  Summer sunshine and animal congregation  around  water holes is ideal for wildlife and tiger photography.

Birding is exciting in the park with more than two hundred species to be seen during winters. Of late bird watching trips are being organized by tour operators of India. Kanha offers the best in Central India forest birding.