Distanc : 65km from Mandla, 169km from Jabalpur, 330km from
Altitude : 1,480 to 2,950ft (450-900m)
Temperature : Max 43o, Min 11o celsius
Rainfall : 1,250mm
¤ Rudyard Kipling Famous Novel -- The Jungle Book Was
became famous when the author Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book in
1894, setting his story in Kanhas forests. While in Kanha, you
will see the dramatic beauty of the forest and the immense variety of
wildlife that must have fired the authors imagination.
Even before Kipling, Kanha (like many other National Parks in India)
was famous as a preferred hunting ground for rulers and viceroys. The
first effort to conserve this area was in 1933, when about 250sq km of
the forested Kanha valley was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary. Another
300sq km of the adjoining Supkhar Sanctuary was added to the original
area, only to be de-notified within a few years, after which just the
original 230sq km of wilderness remained protected.
¤ Declared National Park In 1955
oftentimes, unpleasant incidents have made us sit up and realise that
certain forest areas needed to be protected. A famous cricketer in the
early 1950s, Maharaja Kumar of Vijayanagram was allowed to shoot as
many as 30 tigers in and around the Sanctuary for the sheer sake of
sport. This incident was followed by a public outcry that forced the
authorities to formulate a special legislation and declare the area a
National Park in 1955.
The size of Kanha National Park increased to 318sq km in 1962, and
again to 446sq km in 1970.
In 1976, Kanha became a part of Project Tiger that was launched in
1972, giving the Park its present area of 940sq km. This is surrounded
by an additional buffer area of 1,005sq km. Project Tiger was
essentially a conservation effort begun by the then Prime Minister
Indira Gandhi. Its main objective was to ensure that the poaching of
tigers stopped, and to secure the tigers habitat.
¤ Flora & Fauna
Mammals & Reptiles
Today, Kanha is one of the most famous Tiger Reserves in India, and
it harbours a rich diversity of plants and animals. A photographers
paradise, Kanha offers unlimited possibilities of capturing wildlife
Kanha is often called Tiger Land, and visitors narrate innumerable
and unforgettable instances of tiger sightings. Even in terms of
conservation, the National Park has been a remarkable success, and has
protected a number of species that might otherwise have been
Vegetation in Kanha varies with altitude. The meadows, speckled with
climbs of the great sal tree (Shorea robusta), are interspersed with
larger areas of the great sal forests. In the higher reaches, bamboo
becomes more prominent till the mixed jungle with almost 70 species of
trees, replaces the bamboo trees.
Finally, the flat tops of the ridges, locally known as dadar, are
covered with grasslands sparingly scattered with trees.
These forests are a treasure trove of wildlife. Kanha is home to as
many as 22 species of large mammals commonly found in the Park, and
almost 300 species of birds. Sightings of a common langur (long-tailed
monkey), jackal, wild boar, chital (spotted deer), sambar (Indian
stag) and blackbuck are not unusual. However, the Indian porcupine,
sloth bear, hyena, jungle cat, leopard, chausingha (four-horned
antelope) and nilgai (blue bull) are very elusive. Other sightings,
such as those of the tiger, gaur (Indian bison), dhole (Indian wild
dog), muntjac (barking deer), hare and mongoose need patience, time
Predators of The Park
In an ecosystem, the key indicators of the vitality of the system
are the predators. A thriving predator population in a forest is
indicative of an abundance of the prey species (like deer), and of the
entire food chain.
Kanha has a variety of predators of all sizes, both from the cat
family (like tigers and leopards) as well as from the dog family (like
jackals, wolves and wild dogs). The tiger is the largest predator
here, capable of killing the mighty gaur (Indian bison).
The fierce leopard is usually nocturnal and very elusive, so much so
that a leopard sighting is even more rare than that of a tiger despite
the fact that leopards outnumber tigers. Among the small cats, Kanha
is home to the jungle cat and ratel that feast on small mammals,
birds, eggs, lizards and carrion.
The Deadly Dhole
The dog family is also well represented in Kanha. The Indian fox,
the jackal, the striped hyena and the dhole (Indian wild dog) are
common in the Park. The dhole is perhaps the most misunderstood of all
these predators. All predators kill to survive, but the dhole has a
reputation of being a bloody killer. What has earned the dhole this
reputation is the way in which it kills. Almost all other predators
kill in terrain that has some cover. The dhole is a coursing predator
that kills mostly in open terrain. It hunts in packs, (up to 40 dholes
can form one pack) that synchronize their attack. The pack splits into
two; one group chases the prey, flushing it towards the other half of
the pack. The dhole pack runs after its unfortunate prey, biting off
flesh from the animal until it falls. What follows the chase is not a
pretty sight either. The prey is usually large, and since the dhole
lacks the killing bite of the large cat, the only way to kill its prey
is by biting off chunks of meat, thereby bleeding the animal to death.
Large dhole packs can kill animals as big as the gaur (Indian bison),
and incidents have been reported where a pack was able to kill a
All this had made the dhole a very dreaded predator. Until 25 years
ago, it was seen as a pest and falsely accused for being responsible
for the decline in the number of deer. It carried a bounty on its head
and was indiscriminately killed. But fortunately, the dhole is now
protected under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act that forbids the
hunting of this animal. More research is being done on the dhole, and
for the first time, the focus is on the softer side to this animal.
The Barasinghas Last Resort
The barasingha (swamp deer) is usually a very alert animal. Even
while resting at the edge of a meadow, it is always wary of the
presence of a predator. The barasingha is an extremely interesting
animal to watch in the wild. Its antlers could have as many as 12
tines, which is why the deer is called barasingha (bara in
Hindi means 12 and singha, antler). The barasinghas
large antlers are often adorned with tufts of grass, like streamers on
a Christmas tree.
The sight that is likely to greet you in the morning in Kanha would
be that of a large barasingha herd grazing in a chowd (open terrain).
A nice way to start your day, but it wasnt always like that.
Once found throughout Central India, this subspecies of the barasingha
(Cervus duvauceli branderi) is now restricted to Kanha. It was in
Kanha that the barasingha was rescued from the brink of extinction. In
the 1970s, the barasingha population had dwindled to a mere 66.
Serious efforts were made by all concerned authorities, and the swamp
deer population gradually increased. The efforts included the
enlargement of the barasinghas habitat through village
Deer thrive in open meadows and tall grasslands. Unfortunately,
because of the threat from human beings and domestic cattle, the
barasingha migrated from Kanha.
Even today, the population of this subspecies of swamp deer keeps
fluctuating and continues to be a cause for grave concern.
Found in the northern part of India, the barasingha (Cervus duvauceli
branderi) has a subspecies that is different from its northern
counterpart. This other barasingha (Cervus duvauceli
duvauceli) has pointed and compact hooves that enable it to move with
ease on the grasslands hard terrain. It is not very fond of
water and rarely moves into sal forests. Grasslands are vital to the
barasingha not only because it feeds almost exclusively on grass, but
also because tall grass provides protection to the newborn fawn that
is unable to keep up with the herd.
Once the fawn is stronger, it will join the herd, but before that, it
must stay well hidden from predators. Individuals of the same sex and
age form separate schools, and sometimes large herds of almost 40
fawns can be seen frolicking around at one place, very much like
children in a classroom.
The adults and fawns graze separately. often engaging in mock fights,
the sub-adult males lock their antlers in a trial of strength.
However, the more serious fights among the adult males from December
to January, the crucial mating season, are a sight to behold.
The competing stags lock antlers with all their strength, kicking
clouds of dust around them.
The females graze around them, seemingly unconcerned by the sight and
the sound of the clashing antlers.
The young ones cant help being a little curious, and watch the
fight from the corner of their eyes. The winner, after having chased
away the loser, basks in mud before reentering the herd.
There have been incidents when the antlers of the warring stags had
got so intricately tangled that the animals were unable to detach
themselves. Not being able to graze nor drink, the animals died a slow
death. At times, human intervention failed to detach the barasinghas
locked antlers even after the deer had died.
The Tiger in Trouble
If you are in Kanha, you are in Tiger Land. Chances of seeing a
tiger here are good despite the fact that the sal forests can get
quite dense at places. Seen in its natural habitat, the tiger is one
of the most fascinating beasts in the world. It is also almost
invisible, be it in greenery or in brown bush.
The tiger has this amazing ability to sneak up on its prey without
the slightest sound, even while walking on dry undergrowth. But theres
a catch. While a tiger lies in the bush, it is almost impossible to
see the animal it stays perfectly still without a sound. Except
for its tail, which it can never hold still, however hard it tries.
George Schaller, a well-known wildlife researcher, did a study in
Kanha on the tiger and the major herbivores that form its prey.
Conducted in 1967, this research is regarded as one of the best
studies on Indian Wildlife, and has inspired other similar projects.
These studies show that at its best, Kanha can sustain a rather large
tiger population, especially in the core areas of the reserve. But as
is the case with other Tiger Reserves in India, the tiger is fighting
a battle of survival in Kanha as well. Not only is the tiger being
killed, its habitat is continuously being encroached upon and its prey
being hunted down by human beings.
Royal Hunting of Tigers
In the early 20th century, there were about 40,000
tigers in the Indian subcontinent. This was before royal shikars
(hunts) became a cult for the princes of India. Perched safely on
elephants and machans (observation towers), royalty hunted the tiger.
Royal hunts were an experience in themselves. While Jim Corbett hunted
his man-eaters with a rifle, camping in dense forests for days
accompanied only by his dog Robin, the maharajas (kings) found another
way to bag their game.
Each state had its own army, and with battles becoming a thing of the
past, these troops were used to drawing out game. Hundreds of men
armed with weapons, drums, pots, and pans would step into the jungles.
Then would begin the noisiest safari a forest had seen,
the ultimate goal being to drive animals out to where royalty waited
to blast away with guns.
Project Tiger - A Conservation Programme Launched
Project Tiger, a conservation programme launched in 1972 by Indias
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, adopted the Indian tiger. The projects
main objective was to safeguard the tiger from poachers, but by the
mid-90s, the project had lost its initial drive.
The poaching of tigers continues, and each and every part of the dead
animal fetches a high price in the international market, especially in
China where it is widely used in traditional East Asian medicines.
Tiger teeth, fangs and claws make exotic and much sought after
pendants that are believed to keep evil spirits at bay. Tiger skin
fetches an unbelievable price from collectors.
To a casual visitor, Kanhas bird life might not seem
impressive, but if you pay attention, you will find a lot of birds in
Kanha. Bird watching is not very simple in Kanha, but is worth the
trouble. Get ready to go bird watching with a pair of binoculars, an
identification book (recommended: The Book of Indian Birds by Salim
Ali, or Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by Grimmett) and patience,
and you might be in for a field day.
The best time to go bird watching on the hills or in the meadows of
Kanha is just after daybreak. The sal forest is not particularly rich
in bird life, but the rest of the Park compensates for that. Prize
sightings include the Malabar pied hornbill, paradise flycatcher,
black vulture, red spurfowl, pied crested cuckoo, Eurasian kingfisher
and rosy pastor, to name a few.
¤ Main Aerial Attractions
Common sightings include those of doves, drongos, pigeons, parakeets,
woodpeckers, warblers, herons, teals, quails, swallows, shrikes,
mynahs, babblers, flycatchers, pipits, sparrows, egrets and
Among the birds of prey that rule the skies over Kanha are the
serpent eagle, crested honey buzzard, white eyed buzzard, black-winged
kite, nightjar, shikra, lagger and shaheen falcon, kestrel and a
number of owls including the barn owl and brown fish owl, and owlets.
Kanha is also home to some species of vultures, of which only the
white-backed vulture is commonly seen. The others like the black
vulture, the Egyptian vulture and the long-billed vulture are evasive.
¤ When to Visit
The best time for viewing wildlife in Kanha is from January to June,
but Nov/Dec is also a fairly decent time for sightings. The Park is
closed during the monsoon and post-monsoon period (end June to
beginning November) when most of the Park is inaccessible as the
downpour usually washes away portions of the road.
Best time to visit : January to June
Closed : July 01 to October 31
Transport : Kanha is most accessible from Jabalpur (169km),
Bilaspur (301km) and Nagpur (330km). The nearest town is Mandla (65km)
with a branch of the State Bank of India that deals in foreign
Train : (To Jabalpur, 169km from Kanha)
From Allahabad: Ganga-Kaveri Exp, Howrah Exp
From Delhi: Mahakoshal Exp
From Lucknow: Chitrakoot Exp
From Nagpur: Varanasi-Tirupati Exp
Bus : Private buses are available from Khajuraho, Allahabad,
Mandla, Bhopal, Nagpur, Varanasi and other important towns.
Connecting buses from Jabalpur to Kanha- If travelling via Jabalpur
by a Madhya Pradesh Roadways bus, an overnight halt at Kisli is
necessary. This could be avoided if you are travelling in a personal
or hired car.
Best Time For Sightings : Dawn to 10 a.m.; 4 p.m. to dusk.
Gypsys can be hired from Baghira Log Huts
Once in Kanha, you could go around in the Park either in a jeep or on
elephant back. Both elephant and jeep rides are permitted only during
the day. The best times for sightings are either in the morning from
dawn to 10 a.m., or in the evening from 4 p.m. till nightfall, after
which the Park is closed for visitors. Over time, wild animals have
accustomed themselves to jeeps and elephants, and animal sightings are
Many prefer tiger tracking and photography from elephant back, which
often involves some systematic tiger tracking. Also, altitude
increases visibility. Your guide during the elephant rides will be a
mahout, the elephant driver and keeper. Most mahouts are expert
trackers and would be able to identify all the possible signs that
give away the tigers hideout.
A jeep can also be hired to visit the Park. A Forest Department guide
must always accompany you on these trips. The meadows in Kanha are
abuzz with animals like the barasingha, black buck and chital.
The best chances of seeing a gaur (Indian bison) is at Bamni Dadar,
also famous for its beautiful sunset because of which it is locally
known as Sunset Point. Other places to watch animals are at the
waterholes. Animals visit these waterholes around midday, providing an
enchanting view from machans (observation towers) that visitors are
permitted to use.
¤ Shravantal --Dam
Situated in the central meadows of Kanha, Shravantal is a small but
ancient earth bund (dam). This tank is important not only because it
is the watering source for the area, but also because it provides a
good habitat to a number of waterfowls in winter.
¤ Excursions From The Park
If you are interested in archaeology and look forward to monuments on
each trip, then head towards Baihar, 15km from Kanha. En route are the
ruins of old temples. These black structures are of an impressive
architectural style with corrugated shikharas (temple spires).