“The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack”

Have you heard this quote somewhere? Most probably your answer is a “Yes”. It is from cartoon/movie show called Jungle Book based on book written by Rudyard Kipling. It is believed that Rudyard Kipling got the inspiration for writing ” Jungle Book” from the forests of central India. It was inspired from local folklore in this forest that believes in story of a human cub who was protected by and provided for by pack of wolves. He grew up with them, defending himself and pack from the mighty lord of jungle, Sherkhan, the tiger. This awe inspiring park is called as Pench Tiger Reserve. Description of its natural wealth and richness occurs in several books from past like Ain-i-akbari,  Strendale’s ‘Seonee – Camp life in the Satpuras’, Forsyth’s ‘Highlands of Central India’, Dunbar Brander’s ‘Wild animals of Central India’. These books present the details of nature’s abundance in this part of central Indian forest. Having read most of these books since childhood, I have always had a special attraction for this park.

Located 100kms north of Nagpur, Pench National Park is located on southern edge of Vindhya ranges. It is a dry deciduous forest and moist at some places.  On the way to south, Vindya range meets Satpura range. Satpura mountains which runs east to west forms the border between state of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. It perpendicular to this border that Pench river flows and becomes source of life and abundance. Dam on river Pench is called Tothladoh and backwaters of dam provide finest sanctuary to all wild animals. It is this sanctuary along river Pench that is referred to as Pench National park. This park with the legend of Mowgli is divided in two parts, majority is in state of Madhya Pradesh and other in state of Maharashtra with teak been the dominant flora on both sides.

Google map representation of Pench National Park spread over states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh

This is a unique landscape housing a good density of tigers, leopards, wild dogs and other mammals. Wolves and Hyenas are also an unique find here and can be seen along the edge of protected area. Since water availability is good, avian presence doesn’t go unnoticed. This park can be accessed from Maharashtra as well as MP. Most popular entry gates from Maharashtra side are Sillari and Khursapar whereas from MP side tourists prefer Turia and Karmazari among half a dozen other gates.

This park presents challenge of its own for FD since it is administratively divided over two states. For animals, there are no two states. They simply manoeuvre between parks for food, water, shelter and breeding. For example, Turiya-Teliya in Madhya Pradesh and Khursapar in Maharashtra are overlapping in sense of animal movement. Who should take credit for increased numbers of wild animals and responsibility of their eventuality is primary challenge. Further, the backwater of dam across river is an heaven for illegal fisherman. Patrolling and controlling unauthorized movement of humans inside the park is challenging task for forest officers on both sides. Third interesting challenge is related to human development. This happens because NH7 cuts through the tiger corridor connecting Pench with Kanha tiger reserve. All necessary precautions and mitigation measures are taken by government while building the highway, however unwanted tragic incident of animals getting killed on this highway is not uncommon. Like other tiger reserves in India, man-animal conflict and poaching is Achilles heel and forest department is always on guard. I

While challenges mentioned above are real, let us not forget the fact that park is thriving with tigers and leopards alike. Considering the challenges and recent scenario, I must say that FD from both states are doing great job. Point in proof, we have legendary tigress who has raised highest number of cubs to independence. We have thriving population of other breeding tigress like Patdev, Bindu, Baras etc along with many other dominant male tigers. Also buffer area of Rukhad is seen as new tourism hotspot for tigers. Teliya buffer has always been in news for sighting of “Blacky”, the Bagheera. Interestingly, I have photographed my first wild tiger at Pench Sillari on Maharashtra side in very first safari of my adult life.

My first tiger in Pench. She had tricked everyone ahead of us. She couldn’t trick our guide. Ignore poor quality of image – Shot in extremely low light and photographed as beginner :)  Pench, April 2015

All in all Pench Tiger reserve is a place where everyone must visit at least once. Soon, I will be visiting this beautiful forest after ages not just to see tiger, leopard and wolves but also to pay homage to Rudyard Kipling and the true spirit of wild, Mowgli. 

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