Pench National Park is located on the boundary of Seoni and Chhindwara districts of Madhya Pradesh, close to Maharashtra's northern border. The reserve lies in the forest belt that extends to Balaghat in the east and Nagpur district to the south. The park is named after the Pench river and is contiguous with the forest on the southern side in Maharashtra that has been notified as the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru National Park. It is the panoramic beauty of this region that has been described as early as the beginning of the 20th century by naturalists like Captain J. Forsyth in 'Highlands of Central India' and by Rudyard Kipling in the 'Jungle Book'.
The tiger and the leopard are the predators who claim fiefdom in Pench. The sloth bear and the leopard cat coexist with the four-horned antelope and mouse deer. Spotted deer, sambar, barking deer, nilgai and wild pigs may also be encountered. Langurs and the wild pig are most commonly sighted. Though the flying squirrel, the Indian pangolin, porcupine and wolf are also residents of the park, spotting any of these is rare.
The Indian python, Common Indian monitor and the Water monitor Varanus salvator along with the marsh crocodile Crocodilus palustris and Shikra Accipter badius form the reptilian population complemented by the Indian Flap Shell Turtle and the Peninsular Black Turtle.
Fish like padhan, jhunda, sanbal, chalar, dadai mahur kunda, mrigal rohu calbasu and mahasir are found in the waters of this area.
Pench will seldom disappoint a birdwatcher. Over 170 species have already been recorded. In Pench, you will be greeted by the Little Grebe and you may see darters, herons, egrets, Whitenecked Stork, pigeons, parakeets or cuckoos. Mynahs, shrikes, orioles, bulbuls, tailor birds, barbets, minivets, sunbirds, wagtails and munias are other birds a visitor could be rewarded with. Water birds are often found around the artificial wetlands created by the submergence of the Pench reservoir. The area is on the migratory route of waterfowl in winter.
The area is located in the lower, southern reaches of the Satpura ranges, around 580 m. above sea level. The terrain is undulating, covered with several small hills jutting out like sharp cones. Some hills rise steeply over 675 m. above sea level. Arjal Matta, Kalapahad, Chhindimatta and Kumbhadeo are some of the prominent hills in Seoni district. In Chhindwara district, there are hills extending up to Pulpuideh village. These slope towards the Pench river and the land once again soars higher towards Totladoh. Most of the area is covered with sandy loam, which is especially fertile in the valleys and fairly so on the slopes. Red kankar and saline soils occur in some areas. Alluvial soils are found on the banks of the Pench river and other streams and nalas that crisscross the area.
The Pench River flows almost through the centre of the reserve from the north to the southwest. The river dries up towards the end of April, leaving behind a number of small pools locally called kasa or doh. Much of the low-lying area on either side of Pench have lands submerged by the Pench reservoir.
The forests are mainly Southern tropical dry deciduous and dry mixed deciduous forests.Teak Tectona grandis dominates, comprising 25-50 per cent of the species. Moyan, Mahua, Mokha, Skiras, Tendu, Bijra, Garari etc. are associates of teak. Dhaora Anogeissus latifolia, lendia/seja Lageostroemia parviflora, saja Terminalia tomentosa, salai Boswellia serrata, bija Pterocarpus marsupium, bhirra Chloroxylon swietenia and sirus Albizzia lebbeck are other trees. Bamboo occurs sparsely, restricted to some valleys. Chiltai, mahulbel and palas bhel are common climbers in areas along the river and large water sources.
In Chhindwara, you would see weeds like chirota Cassia tora and gokharu Xanthium strumatium while in areas around Chedia, Alikatta, Tikari and Ambar village, Lantana camara predominates. Parthenium is found in submergence areas along the Pench river. Heteropogon contortus, Digitaria cilliaris and Eulaliopsis binata are common grasses.
Occasionally, in September and February, high velocity winds may rage through the reserve, which uproot the shallow-rooted teak on the slopes.
Almost all the animals seen in Kanha, except barasingha, can be seen in Pench. In April when the Pench river dries out, the animals use locally formed dohs as waterholes. The submergence of the Pench reservoir at the centre of the reserve acts as an artificial wetland where you may see hordes of water birds.
You'd probably see chinkara in small herds in open areas and sometimes around Turia, Telia and Dudhgaon villages.
Wild dogs are seen in packs of 12 to 15 near Chhedia, Jamtara, Bodanal and Pyorthadi.
The wild boar is found almost all over the park, mainly in areas next to agricultural fields, especially in Chhindwara district.
You would probably catch the sloth bear in its favourite hangout amidst the hilly, rocky outcrops and the mahulbel infested forests. Look around for them especially at Kalapahad.
Jackals are sometimes seen next to villages near Tekadi, Alikatta and Chhindimatta.
In the Bodanala and Budhgaon tanks situated within the precincts of the park, a large number of migrant waterfowl may be seen in winter. You may also see Pigtailed ducks in large numbers near Bodanala tank. The Dudhgaon talab in Chhindwara district also attracts migratory birds. The pied or small blue kingfisher is also often seen in Pench.
An area of 450 sq.km. in Seoni and Chhindwara districts of Madhya Pradesh was protected as Pench Sanctuary in 1977. 292 sq. km. was upgraded as Pench National Park in 1983. In 1992, a total area of 757 sq.km. was declared as Pench Tiger Reserve, India's 19th tiger reserve.
Local tribals, mostly Gonds, revere Mansingh Deo, a legendary figure who was believed to be a magician who had supernatural healing powers. He would ride into the local bazaar on his tiger. There are two temples dedicated to him, the Chhota Mansingh and Bada Mansingh temples.
Pench National park, nestling in the lower southern reaches of the satpuda hills is named after Pench river, meandering through the park from north to south. It is located on the southern boundary of Madhya Pradesh, bordering Maharashtra, in the districts of Seoni and Chhindwara.Pench National Park, comprising of 758 SQ Kms, out of which a core area of 299 sq km of Indira Priyadarshini Pench National Park and the Mowgli Pench Sanctuary and remaining 464 sq km of pench national park is the buffer area.
The area of the present tiger reserve has a glorious history. A description of its natural wealth and richness occurs in Ain-i-Akbari. Pench Tiger Reserve and its neighbourhood is the original setting of Rudyard Kipling's most famous work, The Jungle Book.
Forests and Wildlife
The undulating topography supports a mosaic of vegetation ranging from moist, sheltered valleys to open, dry deciduous forest. Over 1200 species of plants have been recorded from the area including several rare and endangered plants as well as plants of ethno-botanical importance.
The area has always been rich in wildlife. It is dominated by fairly open canopy, mixed forests with considerable shrub cover and open grassy patches. The high habitat heterogeneity favours high population of Chital and Sambar. Pench tiger reserve has highest density of herbivores in India (90.3 animals per sq km).
Core : 292.85 sq. km.
Buffer : 465.00 sq. km.
Total : 757.85 sq. km.
Longitude : 79007'45" E to 79022'30"
Latitude: 21037'N to 21050'30" E
Altitude : 580-675 Mt. Above MSL
Rainfall : 1397 mm
Winter : November to February
Summer : March to mid-June
Monsoon : mid-June to September
Minimum : 3.1°F, Maximum : 47°F.
Flora in Pench National Park
The forest is mixed and given the high rainfall precipitation one finds extensive stretches of Sal (Shorea robusta), a tree of moist deciduous forest in central and north India. The Sal is good quality timber, the leaves are good fodder, fruits have nutritional & medicinal value and is valued greatly by tribals. The other common tree species belong to the Terminalia genus, the most numerous being what in India is popularly known as Crocodile bark, the earlier Scientific name being Terminalia tomentosa, now it is referred to as Terminalia crenulata, it is good timber, locals call it as Saja and in Maharashtra it is called as Ain. Terminalia arjuna, locally called Arjun is distinct because of its pale bark and thick girth, is more common near water sources. Other Terminalia species are Terminalia chibula and Terminalia bellarica, Axle wood (Anogeisis latifolia), locally referred to as Dhaoda, good for making charcoal and agricultural implements is common. Labernum or Amaltas (Cassia fistula) with lovely yellow blossoms in the dry season and Flame of the forest or Palas (Butea frondosa) a glorious sight in the drier season when it is flowering, are found sprinkled all over the forest. Huge trees of Baja (Pterocarpus marsupium) & Haldu (Adena cardifolia) along with host of other large & small trees comprise the thick forest. Evergreen trees like Mango (Mangifera indica) and of Jamun or Black plum (Syzigium cumini) are also found. Bamboo thickets (Dendrocalamus strictus) are commonly found, the undergrowth is quite thick with species like Lantana and Glerodendron. The rolling meadows of grass and grassy plateau are integral to the health of the herbivore population. In some areas wildlife management practices have deliberately prevented the progression of secondary and climax vegetation to ensure adequate grasslands for the herbivores. No note on flora can be complete without a note on tall luxurian tree, Mahuwa (Madhuca Indica). Flowers of the tree useful as food and are source of very popular liquor which is compared to Ambrosia or nector of the god.