Pench Tiger Reserve
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|Pench Tiger Reserve|
|Location||Seoni District, India|
|Area||292.85 km2 (113 sq mi)|
Pench National Park or Tiger Reserve is one of the premier tiger reserves of India and the only one to straddle across two states - Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Ordinarily, the reference to Pench is mostly always to the tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh.
The portion of the reserve that is in Madhya Pradesh is nestled in the southern slopes of the Satpura range of Central India. Pench Tiger Reserve comprises the Indira Priyadarshini Pench National Park, the Pench Mowgli Sanctuary and a buffer. It derives its name from its life line-the River Pench. Inside the park, the river flows from North to South before going on to join the Kanhan River, while splitting the Park into two, and forming the boundary of Seoni District and Chhindwara District districts of Madhya Pradesh. The Meghdoot dam built across Pench River at Totladoh has created a large water body of 72 km2 out of which 54 km2 falls in M.P. and rest in the adjoining state of Maharashtra. The Pench River which emerges from Mahadeo Hills of Satpuda Ranges and the various nallas and streams which drain into it, all flow through the forests of Protected Area. The Satpuda ranges which bear the forests of the Protected Area act as an excellent watershed area for the Totladoh as well as lower Pench Reservoirs.
On the Madhya Pradesh side, the Pench Tiger Reserve encompasses a core area of 411.33 km2, with a buffer of 768.3 km2., making for a total protected area of 1179.63 km2. The core area includes the Mowgli Pench Wildlife Sanctuary whose area is 118.30 km2. The Buffer Zone is constituted by Reserve Forests, Protected Forests and Revenue land
Located south of the tiger reserve area in Madhya Pradesh, is the Pench Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra. On the Maharashtra side, the Pench Tiger Reserve has a core habitat area of 257.3 km2 along with a buffer/peripheral area of 483.96 km2. of the Mansinghdeo Sanctuary, making for a total protected area 741.2 km2. Spanning over a total protected region of over 1920 km2., both these tiger reserves are included in the Level 1, 13,223 km2 (5,105 sq mi) Tiger Conservation Unit – 31 (Kanha-Pench TCU). As per many experts, this area is considered as one of the most prime and critical tiger habitat remaining in central India.
The Reserve gets its name from the Pench River that flows, north to south, 74 km through the reserve. The Pench River bisects the original Pench core reserve into two nearly equal parts; the 147.61 km² of the Western Block which falls in the Gumtara Range of the Chhindwara Forest Division and the 145.24 km² of the Eastern Block in the Karmajhiri Range of the Seoni Forest Division. See: Map 1.
The adjoining forests to the west and north-west of the Tiger Reserve come under the East Chhindwara and South Chhindwara Territorial Forest Divisions respectively. The Forest tract to the north and north east of the reserve comes under the South Seoni Territorial Forest Division.
Administratively, the Tiger Reserve is divided into three Forest Ranges; Karmajhiri, Gumtara, and Kurai, nine Forest Circles; Alikatta, Dudhgaon, Gumtara, Kamreet, Karmajhiri, Kurai, Murer, Rukhad, and Pulpuldoh, 42 Forest Beats, and 162 Forest Compartments. The NH 44 (old NH 7), runs between Nagpur and Jabalpur along the eastern boundary of the reserve for around 10 km.
This area was described as extremely rich and diverse in wildlife from the earliest records available on the 16th century Deogarh kingdom (Kumar 1989). The scenic beauty and the floral and faunal diversity of the Central Indian Highlands have been well documented by the British since the late 17th century, e.g. Forsyth's (1919) "Highlands of Central India" (first published in 1871). Thereafter, Sterndale (1887) and Brander (1923) have added to the knowledge on the distribution of the flora, fauna and the local inhabitants of this tract.
The popular fictional works of Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book also have their stories set around this region. It is for this reason that Pench is often known as the original land of Mowgli. However what is very interesting to note, and can actually be considered as a great compliment to the writing skills of Rudyard Kipling, is that Kipling could write so well about the jungles of central India even though he had actually never set foot in them, his only familiarity being with India itself and the jungles of North India.
During the 17th century the Gond rulers of this region cleared large tracts of forests for cultivation and dwellings. This onslaught continued up to 1818, through the rule by the Marathas and later under the British. It was not until 1862 that efforts were made to control the indiscriminate destruction and the forests were declared reserved (elaborated in Kumar 1989).
The Pench Sanctuary was created in September 1977, with an initial area of 449.39 km². The Pench National Park, recently renamed as Indira Priyadarshini Pench National Park, was created in 1983, carved out of the Sanctuary. The Tiger Reserve, 19th in the series, was formed under the Project Tiger scheme in November 1992.
It is notable that the Bor Wildlife Sanctuary and some adjacent protected areas will be merged with Pench Tiger Reserve (Maharashtra), as a 'Satellite core area', to more than double the area of that tiger reserve.
The general topography of Pench Tiger Reserve is mostly undulating, characterised by small ridges and hills having steep slopes, with a number of seasonal streams and nullahs carving the terrain into many folds and furrows, a result of the folding and upheavals of the past. The topography becomes flatter close to the Pench River. Most of the Tiger Reserve area falls under flat to gentle slope category (0-22 °) (Sankar et al. 2000b). The mean altitude is around 550 m above M.S.L. The geology of the area is mainly gneisses and basalt (see Shukla 1990 for details).
The mean annual rainfall is around 1400 mm, with the south-west monsoon accounting for most of the rainfall in the region. For the dry season (November to May), the mean rainfall was 59.5 mm, and the temperature varies from a minimum of 0 °C in winter to 45 °C in summer (Sankar et al. 2000)
On the extreme southern boundary of the Tiger Reserve, a dam (Pench Hydroelectric Project) has been constructed on the Pench River. This dam forms the State boundary between Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Because of this dam’s reservoir, a sizeable proportion (54 km²) of the Tiger Reserve on the Madhya Pradesh side becomes submerged after the monsoonal rains. As summer approaches, these areas, from where the water gradually recedes downstream, become lush green meadows attracting high numbers of wild herbivores. During summer, the Pench River dries out leaving small pools of water locally known as "doh" or "khassa", which, besides the Pench reservoir, are the most important sources of water for the animals during this period. Artificial sources of water such as earthen tanks and check-dams (anicuts) also tend to dry out before the month of March, due to the inherent low water retention capacity of the soil. The Reserve management has also set up many hand-pumps and artificial water holes throughout the Reserve to serve as minor sources of water during the pinch summer months.
Pench Tiger Reserve belongs to the Indo-Malayan phytogeographical region. Ecologically, Pench is categorized as a tropical moist deciduous (TMD) tiger habitat. Floristically, the Tiger Reserve can be classified, according to Champion and Seth (1968) as:
- Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests:
- Type 3B/C1c Slightly moist teak forests
- Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests:
- Type 5A/C1b Dry teak forests
- Type 5A/C3 Southern dry mixed deciduous forests
- Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests:
Teak is a ubiquitous species in the region, with a presence ranging from a sporadic distribution in most parts of the study area to localized teak-dominated patches. Teak (Tectona grandis), and associated species such as Madhuca indica, Diospyros melanoxylon, Terminalia tomentosa, Buchanania lanzan, Lagerstroemia parviflora, Ougeinia dalbergoides, Miliusa velutina and Lannea coromandalica, occur on flat terrain. The undulating terrain and hill slopes have patches of Mixed Forest dominated by Boswellia serrata and Anogeissus latifolia. Species like Sterculia urens and Gardenia latifolia are found scattered on rocky slopes. Bamboo forests occur in the hill slopes and along streams. Some of the open patches of the Park are covered with tall grasses interspersed with Butea monosperma and Zizyphus mauritiana. Evergreen tree species like Terminalia arjuna, Syzygium cumini and Ixora parviflora are found in riparian vegetation along nullahs and river banks. Cleistanthus collinus dominant patches are also found in some parts of the Tiger Reserve.
The tracts that previously formed pastures of villages (subsequently relocated outside the National Park limits) now constitute open grassy meadows much favoured by the gregarious herbivores. With the approach of summer, the extent of open areas of the Reserve gradually increases with the recession of reservoir’s waters.
Zoogeographically, the Reserve falls in Oriental region. The carnivore fauna is represented by the tiger (Panthera tigris Linnaeus), leopard (Panthera pardus Linnaeus), dhole (Cuon alpinus Pallas), jungle cat (Felis chaus Gueldenstaedt), and small Indian civet (Viverricula indica Rasse). Wolves (Canis lupus) occur on the fringes and outside the Reserve limits. Striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena), sloth bear (Melursus ursinus Shaw), jackal (Canis aureus), and common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) make up the rest of the carnivore fauna of the Reserve.
Chital (Axis axis Erxleben), sambar (Cervus unicolor Kerr), gaur (Bos frontalis Lambert), nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus Pallas), wild pig (Sus scrofa L.), barking deer (Muntiacus muntjac Zimmerman) and chowsingha (Tetraceros quadricornis Blainville), are the wild ungulate species found in the study area. Chital, sambar, nilgai and wild pigs are found all over the Tiger Reserve. With the distribution of water governing their movement patterns to a great extent, gaur migrate down from the hills during the dry season and occupy the forests along the Pench River and other sources of water, and migrate back to the hill forests during the monsoon. Nilgai are found mostly in a few open areas, along forest roads, scrub jungles and fringe areas of the Reserve. Chowsingha are more localized to the greatly undulating areas of the Reserve. Barking deer are seen infrequently in moist riverine stretches. Chinkara (Gazella bennetti Sykes) are infrequently seen on the open areas bordering and outside the Buffer Zone of the Reserve (e.g. Turia, Telia, and Dudhgaon).
The common langur (Semnopithecus entellus Dufresne) and rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta Zimmerman) represent the primate fauna of the area. The Indian porcupine (Hystrix indica Kerr), two species of mongoose viz. common mongoose (Herpestes edwardsii) and ruddy mongoose (Herpestes smithii), and black-naped hare (Lepus nigricollis nigricollis) also occur in this Tiger Reserve.
Currently there are no human settlements within the core zone (National Park) of the Tiger Reserve, with the last two forest villages, Alikatta and Chhendia, relocated out in 1992 and 1994 to Durgapur and Khairanji respectively. Villages, inhabited by people of the Gond tribe, small farmers, and labourers, surround the Reserve. The Gond tribals, being forest dwellers, hold great respect for the forest and its fauna, many of which are worshipped. Domestic livestock such as cattle, buffaloes and goats owned by these people frequent the areas adjacent to the Tiger Reserve, many a times falling prey to the wild carnivores of the region. The Reserve can be entered from Sillari Village which is 8 km from NH 6 (Pouni Gate). Many people there work as tourist guides. As is the case with relocated villages in so many of India's tiger reserves, the agricultural fields of Alikatta are now overrun by grass and converted to meadows making them excellent habitat for tiger. Alikatta is now the common meeting point of the park where all the safari vehicles round up for breakfast during the morning drive.
Pench is one of the topmost destinations for wildlife tourism in Madhya Pradesh, albeit a little less famous and popular than the other star attractions of the Madhya Pradesh tiger circuit- Kanha and Bandhavgarh.
Much like the system of wildlife tourism in most of India, the tourism activity in Pench Tiger Reserve is restricted to 20% of the core area and is carried out through safari drives done each day in the early morning and evening. The number of jeeps that are allowed entry into the reserve is restricted by the Forest Department.
For purposes of tourism, there are two main gates on the MP side of Pench Tiger Reserve. The gate that is mostly used is the Turia gate
Research in Pench
Long-term research in Pench was initiated by the study on the interactions between wild animal and their habitat in the Pench Sanctuary by Shukla (1990). This was followed by a tiger-prey estimation study by Karanth and Nichols (1998). Since 1995 the Wildlife Institute of India has initiated a series of studies beginning with a long-term radio telemetry study on the gaur (Bos frontalis) (Sankar et al. 2000a), followed by the creation of a spatial mapping database for the Tiger Reserve (Sankar et al. 2000b). Short-term Master’s studies at the Wildlife Institute of India increased the knowledge on avifauna (Jayapal 1997), wild herbivores (Acharya 1997) tiger food habits and the diversity and distribution of the avifauna in Pench Tiger Reserve.
The usual conservation threats apply to Pench. Poaching and habitat loss and fragmentation are key issues
The NH-7 widening controversy
This was one of the most controversial environmental projects ever undertaken.
Famous Tigers of Pench
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- "Project Tiger Website".
- "Project Tiger - Pench, Maharashtra".
- Wikramanayake, E. D., E. Dinerstein, J. G. Robinson, U. Karanth, A. Rabinowitz, D. Olson, T. Mathew, P. Hedao, M. Conner, G. Hemley, and D. Bolze. (1998), "An Ecology-Based Method for Defining Priorities for Large Mammal Conservation: The Tiger as Case Study" (PDF), Conservation Biology, 12, pp. 865–878, doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.1998.96428.x, retrieved 2012-03-13
- "The Jungle Book with preface by W.W. Robson".
- Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN (12-11-2-11), "Bor to be 'satellite' core of Pench tiger reserve", Times of India, Nagpur: Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd, retrieved 12-3-2012 Check date values in:
- Biswas, S. & K. Sankar (2002), "Prey abundance and food habit of tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) in Pench National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India.", Journal of Zoology, 256:411-420, retrieved 2012-03-13
- Pasha, M. K. S., R. Jayapal, G. Areendran, Q. Qureshi, and K. Sankar. (2004), "Birds of Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, central India", Newsletter for Ornithologists, 1:2-3, Archived from the original on October 25, 2009, retrieved 2012-03-13
- Acharya, B. B. 1997. Habitat Occupancy by Wild Ungulates In Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh. M.Sc. Thesis. Saurashtra University, Rajkot.
- Pench Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra State by Ocean Software Technologies
- Acharya, B. B. 2008. The Ecology of the Dhole or Asiatic Wild Dog (Cuon alpinus) in Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh. Ph.D. Thesis. Saurashtra University, Rajkot.
- Champion, H. G., and S. K. Seth. 1968. A Revised Survey of the Forest Types of India. Manager of Publications, Government of India, New Delhi.
- Forsyth, J. 1919. The Highlands of Central India: Notes on the Forests and Wild Tribes, Natural History and Sports. Chapman and Hall, London, (First published 1871).
- Jayapal, R. 1997. A Study On Bird Communities-Habitat Structure Relationships In Pench National Park, M.P. M.Sc. Thesis. Saurashtra University, Rajkot.
- Karanth, K. U., and J. D. Nichols. 1998. Estimation of tiger densities in India using photographic captures and recaptures. Ecology 79:2852-2862 
- Kumar, S. 1989. Management Plan of Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh (1990–1995). Unpublished. Madhya Pradesh Forest Department.
- Sankar, K., Q. Qureshi, M.K.S. Pasha, and G. Areendran, G. 2000a. Ecology of gaur Bos gaurus in Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh. Final Report. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun.
- Sankar, K., Q. Quresh, V.B. Mathur, S.K. Mukherjee, G. Areendran, M.K.S. Pasha, R. Thapa and P. Lal. 2000b. Mapping of the Protected Area (PA) and surrounding areas in Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun
- Shukla, R. 1990. An ecological study of interactions between wild animals and vegetation in Pench Wildlife Sanctuary and its environs. Ph.D. Thesis, Dr. Harisingh Gour Vishwavidyalaya, Sagar. 249 p.
- Sterndale, R. A. 1887. Seonee, or Camp Life on the Satpura Range. Thacker, Spink and Co., Calcutta and Simla.