Originally a hunting reserve, owned by the Maharaja of Panna, the boundary of the 540 sq. km park is marked by the broad and rocky River Ken which flows through the Vindhya range in Madhya Pradesh towards the Ganges. Panna was granted National Park status in 1981.
The tiger population had decreased to almost unsustainable numbers in the early 1990’s but a strong combined effort looked set to turn around the fortunes of this beautiful park. Changes in management practices led to the state government closing illegal sandstone mines and forcing the cleaning up of diamond mining processes to reduce river pollution.
By 2002, field scientists were recording data from a growing tiger population, with tracking of radio-collared tigers inside the park gave tiger biologists some invaluable information on the resident tigers and bringing this park back from the brink. Today, despite the international attention Panna’s tigers have continued to suffer from habitat encroachment and poaching.
The park is deeply forested with dry deciduous varieties such as teak, acacia and sal. The dense cover provides excellent habitat for nilgai, chinkara, sambar and chitel as well as more elusive species such as the sloth bear, wolf, tiger, leopard and lesser cats. The river is home to both of India's crocodiles the marsh mugger and the fish eating Gharial, for which there is a separate breeding sanctuary.
This park attracts an excellent variety of resident and migratory bird species, from storks and cranes to eagles and vultures. Amongst the 300 or so species, Panna is particularly noted for the high density of Paradise Fly Catchers and a good number of water birds.
IN THE FIELD UPDATE
Feb 2011 - Panna is a very underrated park, so close to a major historic site, with Khajaraho and its airport only half an hour away. It has some of the best park guides, and is also one of the most scenic reserves in Madhya Pradesh. It was always excellent for leopard and sloth bear, close up of deer, antelope and wild boar, and great for clients who want a holistic view rather than ‘tiger centric’ view of India’s wildlife. A recent census suggests it still has 7 of the 8 Indian vulture species (very unusual as they have been decimated by a drug called Diplofenic) It’s Tigers are also back, 1 male and 2 females where relocated and both females now have cubs, one with two 10 month old cubs and one with four, 5 month old, cubs. Both Tigresses though are shy, but should become more visible in the months ahead.
Please note: No elephant back trips are being done at the moment, but few know that there are also some excellent walking opportunities allowed now both within parts of the park and outside, and night safaris are able to show some of India nocturnal creatures including hyenas, porcupines and the odd Indian wolf.