Bandhavgarh National Park

This National Park is small compared to others, but its importance lies in the fact that it has a high game density. When originally notified as a protected area in 1968, the Park was only 105sq km in size. But in 1986, this area was extended to include large areas of sal (Shorea robusta) forests in the northern and southern ends of the Park. Today, the Park covers an area of about 448sq km and is home to a wide variety of animals, including carnivores,

primates, ungulates, reptiles and birds. The forests of Bandhavgarh are the white tiger jungles of the yesteryears. However,no white tigers have been reported from. the wild in the last 50 years, and it is believed that less than a dozen have been seen in India in about a hundred years. And yet when white tigers were sighted, it was right here in Bandhavgarh. Documents in the Rewa Palace record as many as 8 occasions on which white tigers had been sighted in and around Bandhavgarh during the first half of the 20th century. In 1951, Maharaja Martand Singh of Rewa captured an orphaned white tiger cub from the Bagri forest in Bandhavgarh (see Rewa & Land under Madhya Pradesh). The Maharaja domesticated this male white tiger and named him Mohan. The Maharaja was also able to successfully breed white tigers in Rewa and export the cubs to distant countries. As a result, all white tigers in captivity today are Mohan's descendants. The species has thrived in captivity, with a number of specimens related to Mohan finding homes in zoos and circuses all over the world. Mohan was the last white tiger in the wild, and no white tiger has been reported ever since. Before scientists undertook research projects on the white tiger,it was widely believed that the animals were albinos. However, it was discovered that the white tiger did not have pink eyes as albinos do. Instead, these tigers had black stripes and blue eyes, a result of genetic aberration that occurs due to mutant recessive genes in both parents.Maharajas of Rewa Claimed Bandhavgarh As Their Private Game Reserve. Reserve as a private property worked in favor, as well as against the interest of the wildlife in the area. While the forests were well protected and hunting rights remained in the hands of a selected few, the white tiger was still not safe from human aggression. Maharaja Venkat Raman Singh shot 111 tigers by 1914, a figure that was slightly above the auspicious number of 109 tigers that the Maharajas had intended to shoot. The figure of 109 might have been considered a good omen for kings, but for tigers it only heralded death and extinction. Had Project Tiger not been launched in 1972 with the aim of protecting the tiger and its habitat, the tiger may well have become a thing of the past. The killing of tigers in Bandhavgarh stopped in 1968 when the area was declared a National Park.

Flora

Sal (Shorea robusta) trees dominate almost half the forest of Bandhavgarh. The sal tree is an important component of the deciduous forests of North and Central India. Sal forests were found throughout the northern parts of the Deccan, extending from Madhya Pradesh to Orissa in one continuous stretch. These magnificent forests have uniform and thick growths of tall and
straight sal trees that have rounded leaves. The sal also provides precious timber and yields a resin that is used as incense. Over the years, legal and illegal logging has wiped out large parts of these forests, and it is only in places like Bandhavgarh that sal forests are still protected. On Bandhavgarh's upper slopes, a mixed forest replaces the sal forest, while in the north are large stretches of bamboo and grasslands. The undergrowth in Bandhavgarh is not very dense.

Mammals & Reptiles

The Forest Department has recorded at least 22 species of mammals and about 250 species of birds in the Park. Parts of the forest that were cleared for cultivation have now turned into grasslands where the chinkara (Indian gazelle), nilgai (blue bull) and (four-horned antelope) can be sighted. Groups of wild boar can also be seen moving around, digging their snouts into the ground.
Occasionally, carnivores like jackals and foxes follow their prey into the forest. The sambar (Indian stag) and the muntjac (barking deer)inhabit the denser parts of the forest along with herds of chital (spotted deer). Gaur (Indian bison) herds can be seen in the Park only during the months of March and April when they move down from the higher hills to the meadows to graze....

A small population of blackbuck also exists around the fort area. The blackbuck population was reintroduced to the Park and is protected from predators by the old masonry walls of the fort. A number of smaller animals such as the ratel, porcupine, small Indian civet, palm squirrel, lesser bandicoot rat, or predators like the jungle cat, hyena and jackal, can also be seen during a drive through the Park. Reptiles including cobras, kraits, vipers, ratsnakes, pythons, lizards and turtles are more elusive.A lot of action that takes place in Bandhavgarh is up on the trees, as two primate species, the rhesus macaque and the Hanuman langur inhabit the Park. These monkeys are easily visible and fun to watch. Large langur troops can be seen frolicking and feeding on trees. The langur feeds on leaves, some of which are so poisonous that even the most seasoned insects avoid them. Chital herds are often seen close to langurs, and both share a very special relationship. Perched on treetops and equipped with keen eyesight, the langur is a vital part of the alarm system that warns against approaching predators like the tiger and leopard. It is believed that for the most part, langur and chital alarm calls mean the presence of a predator in the area.

Aerial Population

Bandhavgarh is a stopover for migratory birds in winter. A variety of waterfowls come here, but the absence of wetlands makes them congregate at small water bodies. These waterfowls are not the only visitors; others like the steppe eagle also visit Bandhavgarh in winter. A number of small birds can be seen in and around the National Park, including some less common ones like the blue-
bearded bee-eater, white-bellied drongo, Tickell's blue flycatcher, white-browed fantail, Jerdon's leafbird, gold-fronted leafbird, minivets and woodshrikes. Other prized sightings include those of the Malabar hornbill, paradise flycatcher and racket-tailed drongo.The vegetation along the streams and marshes is also rich in bird life. The easily spotted ones are the green pigeons, parakeets, peafowls, little grebes, egrets, sarus cranes, black ibis, lesser whistling teals, white-eyed buzzards, black kites, crested serpent eagles, black vultures, Egyptian vultures, red jungle fowls, doves and kingfishers, to name a few.Best time to visit February to June.

Safaris

Moving around inside the Park is possible either in a hired jeep or on elephant back. Jeeps with walkie-talkies and licensed guides are available outside the Park from either the White Tiger Lodge or Bandhavgarh Jungle Camp. The roads are usually in decent condition and wildlife sightings are common. The best time to drive through the Park is from dawn until about 10 a.m., and in the
evening from 4 p.m. till dusk. As a precaution, entry into the Park after dusk is not allowed. Elephants belonging to the Forest Department are used for safaris into the Park. The mahouts (elephanttrainer-cum-driver) are usually well informed about the movements of tigers, and the areas that are good for wildlife viewing in general.

How to Reach

By Air

Khajurao at 230 km is the most convenient airport connected to the park by various domestic airline services with Agra, Delhi, and Varanasi.

Buy Train

The nearest railhead from Kasauli is in Kalka which is 40 km away.

By Road

Bandhavgarh National Park is situated on the Satna-Umaria & Rewa-Umaria highway. Madhya Pradesh State Transport Bus Services are also available from Rewa, Satna, Katni and Umaria.