Panna Tiger Reserve: Tiger, the king of beasts, rules the reserve. Getting to see this mighty big cat is what drives tourists to this forest
Catching glimpse of a majestic tiger in all its glory is one of the most thrilling experiences for all wildlife lovers. The pursuit of this magnificent big cat brings tourists from across the world to India’s tiger reserves. One of the country’s most iconic tiger reserves is Madhya Pradesh’s Panna National Park located in the Vindhyachal mountain ranges, on the banks of Ken river and it covers an area of 542.67 sq km. Last year, in November, Panna was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Union Minister for Environment and Forests congratulated the reserve for its tiger conservation work.
The Panna Tiger Reserve has a remarkable story of turnaround in its big cat population, especially that of tigers. The number of tigers in the reserve increased to 50 in 2020 from near extinction in a decade. Reserve authorities started Tiger Reintroduction Project in 2009 and brought five female and two male tigers from Bandhavgarh and Kanha national parks. This resulted in an exemplary turnaround in the number of felines in Panna.
Panna is a critical tiger habitat in the dry deciduous forests of North central India. Spread across vast plateaus and dotted with gorgeous gorges, Panna tiger reserve has some stunning attractions for all wildlife lovers including rich flaura and fauna, picturesque landscape, waterfalls and more. Panna Tiger Reserve is the natural habitat of many wildlife species including sloth bear, Indian wolf, Pangolin, Leopard, Gharial, Indian fox and many more. It also has some rare archeological sites where tourists get to see stone carvings which date back to the Neolithic era. Ken River cuts through the reserve providing eye-catching scenes of unparalleled beauty.
Tiger, the king of beasts, rules the reserve. Getting to see this mighty big cat is what drives tourists to this forest and they kind of know it and make no attempt to be humble about it. They relish their fame and make all the tourists wait with bated breath, just for that one glimpse. Sighting a tiger completes the trip for tourists, it is the ultimate thrill and keeps the adrenaline rushing. It is the icing on the cake and the cake itself!
Another big cat, leopard, also roams in this jungle, hunting quietly in the dark of night. Getting to see leopard in action is a rare sight and those who opt for night safari tend to get lucky.
Apart from the two big cats, spotting crocodiles in the Ken river and rare vultures are other major attraction for tourists. Boat safari is preferred by tourists to catch both the land and water predator, i.e., the big cats coming to drink water and crocodiles, together. Ken Ghariyal sanctuary is a natural habitat of these cold-blooded underwater hunters. Out of the nine vulture species found in India, seven species are found in Panna. The tiger reserve has a giant gorge known as Vulture Point where the big birds can be seen in their habitat.
The Panna forest has teak and Kardhai trees in abundance but the tree that stands out in this jungle is the gum tree or the ghost tree for its white appearance. This magnificent tree, known as Kullu by the locals, has many other names as well including gum karaya, katira, sterculia gum or kateera gum. Scientifically known as Sterculia Urens, it stands out in the day due to its colour and shines like a scary white shadow in the moonlight. For six months its bark turns pinkish to white. It is source of natural gum which is generally extracted by cutting back the bark, or by making gashes in the trunk with an axe. Other trees that are commonly found in Panna are tendu, mahua, sajal, bel and salai. Elephant grasses are found in abundance in the patches of grasslands across the forest.
Visiting Panna Tiger Reserve: Located 25 Km from Khajuraho and 182 KM from Jhansi, Panna tiger reserve can be reached by National Highway 39 connecting Jhansi to Panna Town via Chhatarpur. The nearest airport is Khajuraho which is also the nearest railhead as well. Best time to visit is from October to March.
(Images by: Tarun Bhardwaj/ Financial Express online)