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.