Wildlife of Kanha National Park

Kanha supports a sustainable and viable population of it’s famed denizens – the Royal Bengal Tigers and an endemic population of the Hard Ground Swamp Deer or Barasingha. Kanha National Park also harbours 43 varied species of mammals, including predators like the leopard and wild dog, herbivores like the gaur, sambar and chital, and scavengers like the hyena and jackal.

The park has 26 species of reptiles. The snakes include the cobra, saw-scaled viper, wolf snake and Indian python, the lizards include the Indian monitor, gecko and chamelon. Kanha is also teeming with several hundred species of insects and other invertebrates. The floral diversity comprises around 850 species of flowering plants, including 50 species of aquatic and 18 species of rare plants.

The reserve is also extremely rich in avifauna with almost 325 species of birds. Water birds include storks, teals, pintails, herons and egrets. Peafowl, jungle fowl, partridge and quail are the common ground birds. Birds of prey include eagles and kites. While scavengers include vultures, among the nocturnal birds are owls, owlets and nightjars.Fauna of the Park

Mammals : Tigers, Leopards, Wild dogs, Sloth Bear, Jackal, Barasingha, Chital, Sambhar, Gaur, Wild Pig

Blackbucks : One of the common antelopes, blackbucks (Antelope cervicapra) were once distributed on plateaus to the east of the Banjar river passing through the Baihar tehsil, and in several valley villages in the Kanha landscape. Till a few years back, even the core zone also supported a small population ofthe antelope. The population, however, had declined steadily since 1975, and the last animal was seen in 2004. The local extinction of the blackbuck from Kanha was regarded as a blow to biodiversity, and the Kanha management decided to give it a try and reintroduce some animals into extensive areas ofshort grass with low density of shrub and woody species, which would serve as good rehabilitation sitesfor the blackbuck in the core. Some of these sites are: Matigahan,Yusufdadar, Silpura, Mundidadar, Deoridadar,Adwardadar and Dulhadadar. The Kanha management planned the entire capture operation with a retired forest officer, credited with successful translocation of about 7000 blackbucks in Andhra Pradesh.The select field staff of the tiger reserve was also trained for the entire operation of capture and translocation. Special wooden crates were made to safely shut individual animals for transportation. In November 2011, the entire operation was carried out in bamboo bushes and agricultural fields at village Karirat,close to Seoni town. Instead of releasing the blackbucks straight into the wild, they were kept in an enclosure at Kanha. The idea was to keep them under observation/ monitoring for any health eventuality and also to let them get acclimatized to the new environs. In this case the basic objective of this translocation exercise was to build up a population in Kanha and not just to translocate the crop raiding animals. To achieve this objective, the released animals needed to be monitored on daily basis and this was possible only in an enclosure. The in-situ enclosure was specially erected and developed for the multiplication of barasingha. The release site was also prepared for the blackbucks well before the actua lrelease.In the past also, this enclosure had already supported a small population of blackbuck for some years. The area of the enclosure was around 50 hectare and it naturally harbored typical grassland habitats of the core with a range of grass species. Most of the enclosure area supports short to medium height grass species. Some animals, however, also died due to capture myopathy.

The initial release of 27 blackbucks in the Kanha core zone, all of them being the offspring’s of the original antelopes brought from Seoni.

Currently, these Blackbucks along with the Barasingha’s can be easily viewed lazing & grazing in the Kanha meadows, a sheer delight for the tourists and photographers.

Birds : Kanha wakes up each day with a varied calls of the Rufous Tree pie, Coppersmith Barbet, Cuckoo, Crested Serpent-Eagle, Racket-Tailed Drongo and Red Jungle Fowl are commonly heard. Globally threatened species include the Lesser Adjutant Stork and Lesser Floricans can be seen in the season.

The main ground-nesting birds are Peafowl, Red Jungle Fowl and Painted Spur Fowl. Among the commonly seen birds are Indian Roller, Racket-Tailed Drongo, Red and Yellow Wattled Lapwing, Green Bee-eater, Grey Hornbill, Golden Back Woodpecker and the state bird of Madhya Pradesh, the Paradise Flycather.

Black Ibis, White-Necked and Lesser Adjutant storks, and Cormorants can be found around water in winters.

Raptors like Crested Serpent and Hawk Eagles, Honey Buzzard, Black-Winged Kite, Shikra, Laggar and Shaheen Falcon are also seen in the park.

Reptiles : Kanha has a healthy population of over 26 species of reptiles inhabiting its forest though they are not very easy to locate as they live in the undergrowth or the rocky beds of the rivers.

Lizards that you are likely to see at Kanha are the Indian monitor lizard, garden lizard, fan-throated lizard, flying lizard and chameleon.

The largest snake found in Kanha is the Indian rock python. It is massively built-the maximum length recorded being nearly six metres. It is a good climber and swimmer.

Other snakes found at Kanha are cobra (Naja naja), saw-scaled viper(Echis carinatus) , wolf snake (Ptyas mucosus), and egg-eating snake, all of them being venomous snakes.

Invertebrates

Kanha is abundant with the little ones that contribute effortlessly to the ecology of the area. Butterflies can be very commonly seen during and after monsoon but spiders, dung beetles, termites, ant, caterpillars, and scores of such smaller members of team Kanha illustrate it’s habitat.

Though tiny, they play a major role in keeping a forest alive and healthy by tilling the earth and helping in pollination of plants. Besides, they form an important food source for birds and the insectivorous.

They play a major role in keeping a forest alive and healthy by tilling the earth and helping in pollination of plants. Besides, they form an important food source for the insectivorous creatures.

A termite mound may at times contain as many as five lakh (half a million) termites. In a forest like Kanha, termites are not perceived as pests. Their digestive system helps turn dead and decaying vegetation into soil-enriching nutrients.

Endangered Fauna

Kanha tiger reserve is internationally renowned for successfully conserving two of it’s most endangered species : the Royal Bengal Tiger and the Hard Ground Barasingha. The tiger is regarded as most threatened – almost on the verge of extinction in all the tiger range countries in the world. The free-ranging population of hard ground barasingha is endemic to Kanha. It harbors the last world population of this sub-species. Concerted managerial efforts to conserve this species virtually resurrected the barasingha from the brink of extinction.Flora of the Park

Flora of Kanha

Kanha offers a unique and complex combination of varied landforms and soil types, and the moist character of the region, Kanha is super rich in floral diversity. Kanha has over 850 species of flowering plants. The park also has around 50 species of aquatic and 18 species of endangered and rare plants.

Kanha National Park features low land forests and houses the blend of Shorea Robusta (Sal) forests, as well as various trees, which are scattered with lush meadows.

The forests of Kanha National Park are basically moist deciduous type with abundant bamboo on slopes.

Kanha National Park thrives on open meadows as well as grasslands.

The meadows of Kanha National Park, falling in the Kanha zone, play the role of vital habitat for the Hard Ground Swamp Deer or Barasingha.

The many rivulets and streams are surrounded with thick bamboo breaks and tall Mango trees. The upper slopes of the park carry mixed jungle with numerous mahul (Bauhinia vahlii)

climbers crowning the trees with foliage and their swinging stems engulfing a part of the forest. The tree tops look pristine white when the mahul is in flower conspicuously in he summers. Kanha has abundant tree species, of which Bija and Dhaora are specially remarkable. The forests on the upper slopes are remarkably  picturesque in winter.

In the middle slopes, bamboo grows abundantly. In the lower slopes, pure stands of sal replace the mixed woodlands. The valleys are thickly covered with dense stands of sal alternating with lush grassy meadows. The plateau, though essentially grasslands, have sporadic growth of fruit-bearing trees such as achar, aonla and tendu. The nalas ( small rivulets ) are moist and shady with thick bamboo breaks and tall mango, jamun and arjun trees. Needless to mention, this remains the favorite spot of the Tigers to rest and relax during the hot and humid summers.

Forest of Kanha

The forests in Kanha are characterized into four primary types: pure sal, pure mixed, sal with bamboo and bamboo with mixed. Plateaux are mainly covered with grasses along with sporadic and stunted tree growth due to shallow soil depth. Upper slopes are covered with mixed forests with numerous mahul climbers. These make the tree tops look white in summer. Middle slopes are covered with mixed forests and bamboo, whereas lower slopes are sal forests with bamboo. Valleys and plains other than grass meadows are covered with pure sal.

Grasslands of Kanha

The Kanha grasslands are magnificent. In fact it is in these grasslands that one is likely to see much of the wildlife in the park. There are 3 type of grassland in the park.

  • Pleteaux : The grass on dadar, as a plateau is locally called, attracts large herds of gaur during rain and early winter.
  • Valley : The best grasslands can be seen in extensive valleys, and they attract herds of ungulates and are the best place to view wild Kanha.
  • River beds : Grasslands on the river beds: These grasslands occur in winding strips along rivers and streams which have a very high water table during the monsoon. These flat, silted beds are locally called behra. Tall grasses that grow in the behras also provide well-sheltered fawning sites much favoured by the barasingha.

Bamboo : The Great Grass

Like a true grass, bamboos die on seeding. The bamboo flowers gregariously only once in 40 to 60 years. However, the entire bamboo patch does not flower and die together as clumps of different seed origins continue to flower and seed sporadically. There is a carpet of bamboo seedlings in the year of gregarious flowering as soon as the monsoon breaks. Bamboo is abundant and nutritious. Animals and birds feed on it. The bamboo-bearing area in Kanha has been greatly enhanced since the gregarious flowering of 1962-1964. Mainly two species of bamboo occur in Kanha – Dendrocalamus strictus and Bamboosa arundinacea.

Sal Forests of Kanha

Sal trees have a well-formed stem and a dense crown that stays green almost throughout the year.

Sal forests tend to occur in pre stands. In February-March the leaves are shed but are just as soon renewed, changing hues from brownish red to pale green to dark green as they grow. In March-April, the trees suddenly bloom. The small off-white flowers impart a unique look to the forest and their mild scent fills the morning and evening air.

Soon, the flowers fertilize and fall, leaving behind the juvenile fruit. By late May ripe winged fruits dislodged by wind parachute over long distances. Profuse seed fall takes place during June, in time for the monsoon.

Late summer, otherwise a time of food scarcity, is compensated by a rich crop of sal flowers and fruit. The gaur and deer of Kanha-except the barasingha whose allegiance to grasses is unflinching – have a feast. The langur also shares in this bonanza greedily. Tender sal leaves, although not high in rating for palatability, are sometimes browsed by deer, langur and gaur.

Sal, thus, is the benevolent provider in Kanha. While imparting beauty to its forests, it is also a source of valuable sustenance when the other food sources are low.

To know more about Kanha Tiger Reserve, click here.