Located in the Satpura ranges in central India, the Kanha National Park (KNP) was pronounced as a reserve forest in 1879. Way back in 1894, this forest area formed the backdrop of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. In 1933 KNP was declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary and later in 1955 was promoted to being a National Park. In 1973 under the Project Tiger Initiative, the Park along with its adjoining areas was proclaimed as a Tiger Reserve (KTR). The total area of KTR is 1945 sq km and comprises of – the Kanha Park that covers an area of 940 sq km, the Phen Sanctuary that was added to it in 1983 and the buffer zone. The KTR was awarded the Best Managed Park in India from WWF in 2014.
The Royal Bengal Tiger that belongs to the species Panthera Tigris and is part of the Panthera family. It is commonly called ‘Bagh’ in the local language and is the National Animal of India and Bangladesh.
Some famous animals of Kanha National Park include –
Physical characteristics – The outer coat of the tiger ranges between yellow and light orange and is characterized by distinct stripes that range between dark brown to black colour. The tail is orange coloured with black rings. The skull forms the largest part of the body and its canines are one of the longest amongst all cats. On an average, this striped majestic animal weighs about 325 kg and measures about 320 cm in length.
History and population – This species is believed to have arrived in the Indian subcontinent almost 12000 to 16500 years ago. In the last few centuries due to extensive poaching activities, this famous species was almost on the brink of extinction until the Project Tiger was launched in the country in 1973. As a result of this conservation project, the number of tigers has risen from 1411 tigers in 2006 to almost 2226 in 2014.
Traits – Classified as one the biggest wild cats alive today, the tiger is an apex predator that preys on deer and bovines which include mammals like bison, sheep, goats, cattle etc. It is one of the main animals of Kanha and is most active during early mornings and late nights. KNP is covered majorly with sal and bamboo trees that provide for an ideal spot for the world’s most endangered cats to move and blend with the natural vegetation around. In the Kanha Park, the tiger is the only hunter. The majesty of the tiger is revealed in its famous gait, the way it stalks its preys in the greenery of the forest, its hunting style and its distinctive way of taking the carcass into the covers and then feeding on it.
Identification – Visitors to the Kanha National Park who are on the trail of this famous animal usually get to see the tiger pug marks on the sand that guide and drivers enthusiastically show off to announce the predator’s presence. The pug marks generally reveal recent movement in the area of this prized fauna of the Kanha Tiger Reserve. KNP is one of the reserves in India where this striped cat can be easily spotted by wildlife enthusiasts.
Famously known as the Swamp Deer, it belongs to the Cervidae family that is the family of hoofed ruminant mammals. The scientific name of the species is Cervus Divaucelii – the specific name has been named after Alfred Duvaucel, a French naturalist. In the local language, the deer is called the Bara Singha because of its famous antlers that is twelve-tined (in Hindi Bara means twelve). They can, however, have as many as 20 tines. These antlers are found only in the deer family and are in actuality bones with only male deer having these structures. In the Assamese language, these deer are also called ‘dolhorina’ where ‘dol’ means swamp. It is the state animal of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Here, you can also see hard ground swamp deer or Branderi Barasingha in all its glory, lazily strolling in the park.
Physical characteristics – Other than the distinctive antlers, this famous animal of Kanha National Park has an average length of 180 cm and height of 110 cm. The hair on its body is yellowish-brown in colour that becomes a deeper brown during summers. The antlers on an average measure of about 76 cm.
History and population – The swamp deer is a native of Assam and the Indo-Gangetic plains but due to random hunting and poaching activities, the population has reduced significantly over the years. Today it is one of the most prized fauna of the Kanha Tiger Reserve where about 750 Southern swamp deer were estimated to be alive in 2016.
Traits – These famous animals of Kanha move in herds. Their food constitutes of grasses and aquatic plants. During most part of the day, they either graze or rest in the shade of trees. Typically, when they spot a tiger or any other predator, they start giving alarm calls.
Identification – KNP is the only reserve in the entire world where the famous swamp deer can be seen surrounded by natural habitat, thanks to the breeding programs and conservation practices here. The Park introduced a mascot in 2017 called ‘Boorsingh the Bara Singha’.
Also called the Ussuri Dhole or the Indian Dhole. It belongs to the species cuon alpinus alpinus and is genetically close to the Canis family. The Indian Wild Dog, one of the main animals of Kanha belongs to the family cuon alpinus.
Physical characteristics – This famous animal is covered by a bright red coat and lives in forest areas spread across the entire northeast and south Asia. During winters its coat grows into a woolly furry coat while during summer it is growing to a leaner self.
History and Population – This species is listed as an endangered species with only about 2500 adults left in India. The dwindling population is mainly due to hunting and illegal poaching activities for the fur. In India, it is covered under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. [Know – Types of Wildlife Safari’s in India]
The Gaur is another prized fauna of the Kanha Tiger Reserve. Belonging to the species bos gaurus, it is also famously called as the Indian bison and in the local language called the mithun. It is the largest bovine alive its characteristics include cloven hooves and horns.
Traits – It is a predator while it is also considered to be a social animal. It feeds on small herbivorous animals like deer, buffalo, Nilgai etc.
Identification – The Dhole is a popular sighting at KRT – in fact, the Reserve is listed as one of the 10 places in the world where this species can be seen commonly. These good-looking intelligent species move around in large packs. Lucky enthusiast can catch glimpse of Dholes chasing their prey, killing them or pups feeding on disembowelled parts of the victim in the Park.
Physical characteristics – In the wild cattle species this famous animal of the Kanha National Park is one of the tallest and the largest bovids alive today. It is a strongly built animal with a major dorsal ridge on the back. Males are black in colour while the cow is paler. The area below the knees is white in colour giving the impression that they wear white socks.
History and population – These species have been around from ancient days. The population in India in the mid-1990s was about 12000 – 22000 adults.
Traits – They are herbivorous animals feeding mainly on herbs. They move around in herds generally led by an old female. As they are easy targets of tigers and leopards and also due to human encroachment, their numbers have reduced considerably in the last few years.
Identification – KNP has one of the largest numbers of gaurs living in the forests here. Summers are the best time to view gaurs here when they are out in the meadows to drink water.