The magnificent forest tract of Kanha National Park straddles the two districts of Mandla and Balaghat in the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. These areas have enjoyed protection since 1879 as a reserve forest, subsequently being declared a National park in 1955 and a Tiger Reserve in 1973. This region used to be a part of ‘Gondwana’, or land of the Gond tribe which still inhabit the region. The Baiga are the other prominent tribe living here. Located on the Maikal Hills of the Satpura range; Kanha constitutes the classic landscape of the Central Indian highlands with gently sloping hills, misty dense forests and river valleys. Kanha National Park is one of the largest parks in the country spreading over 2000 square kilometres. These jungles are prime tiger habitat and are a conservation success story for Barasingha or the hard ground swamp deer. From about 60 individuals or so in the 1960’s to over 750 deer in the recent census, the Barasingha are back from the brink of extinction.
Kanha vegetation is mixed deciduous with Sal (Shorea robusta) as the dominant species. Sal is a towering tree that can grow up to a height of 30 metres and is seldom leafless, making for a green jungle year round. The tree is prized locally not only for timber but for various medicinal uses. The resin obtained from Sal is used to treat Arthritis, while the butter is used for lighting oil lamps. Bamhani Dadar - one of the highest points in the park is a rocky plateau that has scrub like vegetation with short hardy plants and grasses. A variety of trees growing on the slopes are Bael or stone apple, Tendu, Jamun or Indian blackberry, Tamarind and Mahua to name a few. Arjuna trees with smooth white trunks are usually found growing on river banks while swathes of Bamboo occur intermittently. Various species of grasses are found in the Kanha meadows, chief among them being ‘Kans’, from the Saccharum family, of which the delicious sugarcane is also a member. Some of the finest specimens of the Crocodile bark trees can be seen in Kanha. As the name suggests, this robust looking tree has a bark that resembles the ridged pattern on a crocodile’s back. The Kanha jungles have a temperate climate and relatively cool year round. The temperate climes of Kanha abound with myriad fruiting trees and grasslands swaying with succulent grasses. Such natural bounty provides for a thriving and varied animal population at Kanha national park.
Kanha National Park is one of the largest and most scenic wildlife sanctuaries in India. The Barasingha is Kanha’s iconic animal and also the park’s mascot. This charismatic deer gets its name from the multiple tines on its antlers, usually 12 or ‘Barah’ in Hindi. The park is known for its rich biodiversity with predators like Tiger, Leopard, Jungle Cat, Indian Fox, Wild Dogs and Jackals. Sloth bears are seen quite often here. Sounders of wild pigs can be found scrounging for food. Spotted deer and sambar are common while the remarkable bark like call of the barking deer or Muntjac can be heard resounding through the forest. The black faced grey langurs are more common inside the park than the red faced rhesus macaques which tend to keep to the periphery of the jungle. Herds of gigantic gaur, the largest wild cattle in the world can be spotted in good numbers. Some smaller & very entertaining animal sightings are those of the ruddy mongoose, palm civets and palm squirrels. Large fruit bats or flying foxes and flying squirrels can be seen at dusk. The various water bodies attract migratory birds to the park, taking the bird count to over 315. Peafowls, eagles, hawks and other raptors along with black hooded orioles, Munias and woodpeckers are some common birds seen.