Kanha Tiger Reserve: When the jackals came calling in Kipling's Mowghli-land

Souvenirs at a shop near a entrance gate of Kanha Tiger Reserve

Rudyard Kipling is said to have written 'The Jungle Book' based on his stay in India and his imagination of the Central Indian forests. His story 'Hunting-Song of the Seeonee Pack' is based on the jungles around Seoni town, that include Pench Tiger Reserve.

I visited the well-known Kanha Tiger Reserve in Central India from the 19 to 24 of this month to attend a WWF-India meeting and also to see our work there. Flying in to Jabalpur from Delhi on Monday, we drove through the beautiful forests of Satpura - Maikal landscape. The forests are of teak as one drives from Jabalpur on the highway to Raipur City (Chattisgarh), through Jabalpur and Mandla territorial divisions. The teak slowly gives way to sal as one crosses the Narmada River at Mandla Town. About 40 km south-east of Mandla is Kanha Tiger Reserve...

During the week we managed to get into the park a couple of times. Tourism here is very visible unlike many of the parks down south like Dandeli or Mudumalai. There are hordes of Maruti Gypsy vehicles lined up at the entrance to the park, as early as 5 AM, waiting for their chance to enter the forest. All seems organised and well-oiled until you meet this guy driving a Gypsy towards you and says where they saw a tiger a few minutes ago. Your driver races down the dirt track and as you near the site where the tiger was sighted, you see tens of Gypsies lined up along the road to catch a glimpse of 'The King'. Hyper-excited kids, childish adults, awe-struck videshis...a wide spectrum of the audience awaits you, much of which is noisy.

As tourism is important to the economies of many small villages and towns around Kanha and since Kanha is one of 'The' places to see a wild tiger, the forest department is under tremendous pressure to cater to the needs of different sectors. Despite these factors, the forest department and the Government of Madhya Pradhes have done an excellent job in protecting Kanha and its wildlife. I guess some one up the chain needs to be firm and restrict the number of gypsies approaching a tiger. Till then it's literally a rat race, even in Kipling's Jungle Book country.

We drove back the same way to Mandla from Mocha village near Kanha park on Friday evening. On early Saturday morning we started the drive back to Jabalpur. The landscape was stunning with the early morning sun giving a golden hue to the yellow paddy fields and the forests behind them. The sun rays pierced through the early winter fog and the many different rivers and streams besides the highway glistened. There were few vehicles on the road and we saw a jackal near Ghughra water fall, in the forests of the Mandla Territorial Divison.

The Jabalpur Airport looked like a military aircraft runway converted to a civilian airport. Like many of the cities in Central India, Jabalpur is surrounded by forests. The airport is located about 15 km from the city centre and is situated amidst forest. Naseeb, my driver explained that one could see "all wildlife except tiger" in these forests. I didn't doubt him.

We boarded the small 40-seater aircraft and as it was speeding on the runway, the captain abandoned the take off. There was a surprise in store as he announced that he 'rejected' the first take-off as he saw 'jackals on the runway'. It was an exciting begining of the end to this journey of mine to Central India.

An Azerbaijani proverb says, 'the forest can't be without its jackals'. Surely there used to be a forest on where the runway stood today, not long ago. I guess the jackals were there to say that to us : )


  1. That was an interesting end to the story. Also liked the last image of sunrise/set

  2. We were in Kanha a couple of summers ago, and your lovely pictures filled me with a yearning to go back.

    Yes, I agree that the only time when all discipline breaks down is when the tiger is spotted in the wild. Its some kind of adrenalin high, that even the rangers and spotters get into!

    I've written a whole series on our trip, including visiting Bahminidadar, in case you have te time to read!

  3. So you were lucky to shoot Gaur.. Amazing Pics.. Next time welcome to Chhattisgarh in Achanakmar & Bhoramdeo WLS...

  4. Its really fine to read and see the nature too closely which never expect. I think we should do more to protect our forest for others animal also...


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