Pench

Here, for the very first time in decades of travel in the jungles, we saw a family of tigers together.

201 kms from Jabalpur and 93 kms from Nagpur. Area approximately: 758 sq kms. This is Mowgli country: a fairly rugged, undulating landscape of hill ranges, valleys and plains. It is watered by the Pench River and other seasonal streams. There are, however , a few perennial spring and the great Pench Reservoir to spread their greening influence when the streams dry up.

It vegetation is southern tropical, slightly moist teak forests; and dry mixed deciduous forests. The forests of Pench have passed into folklore all across the world. Here, according to those who should know, a naked child was found walking on all-fours in the forest, back in the 19th century. From the way he behaved, people believed that he had crawled away from his village at the forest’s edge and been brought up by wolves. He died after short while but he did inspire Rudyard Kipling to write The Jungle Book about the life and times of a fictional wolf boy named Mowgli. It became a perennial best-seller and inspired the Disney animated film, Mowgli.

Those who have read the Jungle Book will discover that Pench is a familiar terrain. There are village with hayricks at the edge of the jungle; outcrops of rounded bounders on which Akela, the leader preside over gatherings of the wolf pack; the mischievous gamboling of the Rhesus Monkey, the Bander Log- to rhyme with ‘Vogue’-and the high-flying

Cheel the Kite, (who) brings home the night,
That Mang the bet sets free.

In the book, the tiger Sher Khan leads a solitary, bachelor existence. But with just a little bit of luck you might see a family of tigers purring and grooming each other like a passel of purring pussy-cats!

And since cats-even the big cats-purr only when they are contended, you are likely to see many of their prey species. Chital, our beautiful spotted deer are very common and their males sport an impressive spread of antlers during the rutting season. Then you might sight, unusually close to the road, herds of our heavily built Gaur, the Indian bison. Here, in Pench, they seem to have learnt how to push down fairly large saplings so that their calves, wearing fawn jackets, can dine on the leaves. This behavior is generally associated with elephants so they could have picked up a few tips from the domesticated elephants that graze in the Park at night.

The other animals here are sambar, gaur, wild-boar, chausingha, nilgai, barking deer, jungle cat, leopard cat, wild dog, Sloth bears and leopard. There are 260 bird species including cormorants, herons, egrets, black necked storks, lesser whistling teal, brahminy duck, crested serpent eagle, red jungle fowl, and kingfishers. There is an enthralling forest museum in Pench. It gives fascinating and graphically illustrated information about the National Parks, its vegetation and wildlife. Visitors should see it before their first round of park; and then again, after experiencing the forest to know more about what they have seen.

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