Untold story of Kanha National Park
When Akhbar’s army came through this area it was been recorded that jungle dwelling men were seen walking alongside Tigers, as if they were domestic pets. That must have been an amazing sight, but will sadly & probably never occur again in the wild. However they did leave these jungles of the Central Indian Highlands and the Sal & Bamboo world relatively undisturbed for fear of the three “Devils”. The devils were namely the Tiger, the Tribes and Malaria. These indigenous Tribes, so feared in those days for their jungle & hunting skills and effective supernatural powers, are the ancestors of the gentle Baiga & Gonds that have now been marginalized in their own world, and deprived of their peaceful, balanced and ecologically friendly way of life.
Then came the invasion of the British East India Company of merchants and subsequent total take over by British Raj. Their man came in shooting everything in sight; decided they owned the jungles, (in fact the whole of India), and subjugated all brown skinned people to their whims and organized “control”. Mass murder and annihilation of India’s wildlife species then took place at an outrageous pace, sadly with the assistance of the Princely State’s Rajas, who had been coerced into playing host to shikar parties, killing anything and everything to establish records of how many beasts or birds could be brought down – much against the ancient rules of jungle conservation laws laid down by Emperor Ashoka & Kautilya’s “Arthashastra”.
The Central Indian Highlands comprise of the oldest mountain range on the sub-continent, the Satpura Mountain range and the lower Maikal Hills. The Highest peaks of the Satpura range at Panchmari are said to be the abode of MahaDeo, the primary deity of the Tribes pantheon of Gods. Kanha National Park is nestled within these velvety Maikal Hills, and has two main river networks. The Banjar River and its tributries in the western ranges and the Halon in the east.
Prior to Independence the Kanha we know today, consisting of 945 sq. km core and 1005 sq. km buffer zone, plus some of Chilpi’s protected forest (in CG), (totaling nearly 2,000 sq. kms), was divided into several Shooting Blocks for the amusement of British Raj Officials and their guests. The Kanha block, of 250 sq. kms., was set-aside as a non-shooting zone to ensure they didn’t run out of animals to shoot for fun. A huge debate on the subject erupted in New Delhi when one of the latter Viceroys of India wanted to swap over the no-shooting/shooking block ranges of Kanha and Supkhar, because the “game”, as they called shootable wildlife, had decreased to levels of “poor sport”. This thankfully never happened and the Tigers, Leopards, Barasingha and other wildlife species were spared total annihilation from these ancient jungles.
After Independence, as late as 1955, Kanha was declared a National Park of 250 sq. kms., primarily to save the Barasingha or Hard Ground Swamp Deer form total extinction. The number of Barasingha had been reduced from tens of thousands to only 66 animals, and this particular sub-specie of Swamp Deer is only found in Kanha – throughout India or even the world. The large fenced area in Kanha Range is the secure breeding zone set up then for the Barasingha. Today their numbers have reached around 400 animals, and the Barasingha herds are divided amongst 3 ranges – 1). Kanha – both inside the fencing and out in the Kanha Meadows, 2). Sonf & 3). Mukki.
Subsequently the areas known as Kisli & Sonf were added to the National park, with Bisanghat, Mukki and Supkhar included lastly. The last villages were moved out of the core in 1982.
The different ranges of Kanha are East – Kisli & Sonf to the north. West – Kanha. South- Mukki, Bisanpura & Sondar. These are the ranges where visitors are allowed entry. The far Eastern ranges of Bisanghat & Supkhar do not allow visitors due to the lack of infra-structural roads & staff. However there is talk of them opening these two ranges up to take the pressure off Kisli gate. The current entrances to KNP are only at Kisli & Mukki.
Kanha National Park, or Kanha Tiger Reserve as it should be called, is considered India’s No. 1 example of how a National Park should be run. However the pressure from Tourism is causing concerns to the park’s officials. There has to be discipline of visitors, or the animals everyone comes to see will desert their habitat, and again have to face extinction. I don’t think anyone wants to see that day.
The Sal jungles of central India once stretched from above Rewa to Andhra Pradesh & Orissa, and from Hoshangabad, down to northern Maharashtra and east through old Bihar, West Bengal & up to Assam. Sadly hectors upon hectors of Sal forest were felled by the Britshers for the railway sleepers and buildings! Around Pench all the massive Teak trees were also felled for furniture for the British Raj officialdom.
Sal Trees, if in concentrated numbers, can reduce the temperature by a whole 5º C, which during the torrid summer months of up to 48º C can make quite a substantial difference to life and death situations.
Kanha protects 22 mammal species including Tiger, Leopard, Sloth Bear, Dhole – Wild Dogs, Barasingha, Chital-spotted deer, Barking Deer, Samba – the largest deer found in India, jackal, Gaur or Indian Bison, Nilgai, Four horned antelope, pangolins, civets cats & Mongoose etc.
There are 264 bird species, so far recorded – including Grey Hornbills, Paradise Fly Catchers, Crested Serpent Eagles, Racket Tailed Drongo, Tree Pie, Wood Owls, Jungle owlets, Shikra Red & Spotted Munia, Scarlett Minivets, Baya Weaver Birds, Indian Pitta, Night Jars, etc.
Nearly 40 different tree, bush and grass species are present, and many reptiles and thousands of insects are also found in Kanha.
- The cold winter months are from mid November to mid/end February
- The warmer months are October, early November & March.
- The hottest months are April, May & June.
Rainfall is normally expected in Jan/Feb and again in mid June, forming the commencement of the monsoon, but that was before global warming, so it’s a good idea to keep a foldable raincoat in your park bag as it can rain any time nowadays.
Precautions visitors should take:
- Medicine against Malaria – it is definitely in Kanha.
- Bring Baby food, cameras, re-chargers & adapters etc.
- Very warm clothing for the winter months – it plummets to minus 2ºC
- Hats that cover the neck to avoid sunstroke in any month – open jeeps
Hope the above information helps in you be more information friendly with the guest at the resort. Kanha is a National Park or a Project Tiger Reserve. The best in the country.