If there is one thing I am proud of about the Kanha National Park, its successful conservation work is done to preserve the endangered Barasingha.
Barasingha is the colloquial Indian term for The Swamp Deer. It means "the twelve tined one." Their antlers are a spectacle to behold. An adult male can have somewhere between 12 to 15 tines in his antlers. The heavy branches make them look prettiest.
If you notice a chital, aka spotted deer, you would see that they have only about three tines. But this one has twelve, and that is the whole beauty of it. Central India was once the ground for these hard ground swamp deer. However, somewhere in the 1970s, the number fell drastically to double digits, making Barasingha an endangered species. This drew a nation-wide concern.
Around the same time, a conservation project for tigers was initiated. It facilitated suitable grounds for the Barasingha to thrive as well. A win-win!The success story of the increasing number of swamp deers in Kanha National Park is India's one of the best conservation projects.
This was my second visit to the park, and I held my breath, waiting to spot the Barasinghas. The last time I was at Kanha, these rare beings had hidden themselves behind the tall grass with their tiny heads popping out occasionally. They were far off, and I did not get to see them clearly.
This time, I did get to see the lovely Barasinghas, and I want to share the joy with you this time, breaking all the suspense.
Let us take a drive through the Kanha National Park.
I was on a week-long tour through the wildlife parks of Central India. I had explored the Pench National Park and the Satpura National Park. I was able to spot a tiger only in the Pench National Park.
They say that the huge Kanha National Park also has a big population of tigers. I had four safari tickets. Yes, four!! I would not let it go to waste at any cost. So I was hopeful of spotting tigers too. But the last minute booking and the shortage of seats made me book all the safari tickets around Khatia gate and one near Mukki gate. The statistics from these two gates reveal a good number of sightings.
Day 1 of Finding Barasingha
The morning was chilly. The weather was a pleasant surprise for a summer morning.
The Kanha National Park landscape is so serene and breath-taking that I was looking forward to exploring it. The towering Sal trees with their fluorescent coloured leaves make for dramatic scenery all around the forests.
As soon as we entered the park through the Mukki gate, we saw a herd of spotted deers grazing along the plains. It was a huge herd.
Closeby, a pack of jackals, was eyeing them! It looked as if the jackals were in two moods. One half of the pack was playing around, and the other half was circling up the deer! But the deer did not seem to consider the jackals as a threat and continued to graze peacefully. Talk about the harmony in nature! Jackals are mostly scavengers; they feed on the remains of the kill made by other predators. Maybe the deer knew it already and hence did not fear the jackals.
Then we saw that there were fresh pug marks of a tiger everywhere. It felt as if the tiger got to know that we were right behind it and hence decided to run to the rescue. It was quite disappointing to follow pug marks and realise that it leads to a crossroad! We stood there scratching our heads, wondering which way to go!
So far, we had not spotted a single tiger!
We decided to stay put by a lake as a tigress with her cub had been spotted a few days back. That was pretty much the idea of every other safari member.
We soon saw that a scared barking deer came down to drink water from the lake. The Muntjac or the barking deer is probably the most cautious animal I have ever seen. It always seems to be on guard, looking around carefully and runs away on hearing even the slightest sound.
This one was a male barking deer with horns. A first for me! Careful as it was, it would have given a thought at least a thousand times before taking a sip of water. It was fun to sight this animal!
My mind was now set completely on the Barasingha. Two safaris down, and yet there was no Barasingha insight. What if the Barasingha becomes extinct! Such thoughts plundered my mind.
We stopped by grassland, and there they were— A herd of female swamp deer busy chomping away the tall grass. A herd of Indian Gaur was approaching them, so the swamp deer peacefully moved onto the other side. Their golden coat gleamed in the sunset rays and looked magnificent. What a sight to behold!
The thing about hard ground swamp deer is that they cannot thrive in the forest. They need grasslands, preferably wet grasslands. They need a specific type of geographic conditions and food to thrive upon, which has led to a significant decrease in their number.
Once upon a time, trophy hunting and poaching was a thing. Humans gradually converted all their grasslands into commercial farms, thereby leaving no space for the swamp deers to survive.
With the conservation efforts, the land has been cleared again for grasslands. The villages have also been evacuated to make way for the sanctuaries. Farms are no longer set on fire, and the animals are kept under close observations.
Boma was set up within the Kanha National Park to revive the numbers of Barasingha. A Boma is an enclosure built especially for the animals to get used to the surroundings and thrive in it. It makes it easier to keep them under expert observation.
Once they are comfortable with the new grasslands, are healthy and can live independently, they are released into the open grasslands. This also prevents the predators from attacking them.
In the boma conservation area, the Barasingha numbers have increased manifolds with healthy newborns. Now the numbers have risen well over 400. Some of them have even been moved to other National sanctuaries to see how well they can thrive in new habitats.
Last Day Of Finding Barasingha
On our last day, we went to the Park again in the morning; however, this time, we went through the Khatia gate. This was my fourth drive through the Kanha National Park. The last day morning was again through the Khatia gate. On every last visit to a park, I am usually relaxed because I know what to expect based on how well my luck has been treating me in the place!
So I settled down in the jeep, enjoyed looking at the clouds above, tried listening to the warning calls, drew pug marks in my hand, counted the crocodile trees passing by, watched out for colourful birds and tried to get my hands on mahua fruits.
We came to the plains again and suddenly, amidst the glimmering shiny tall grass, popped out the antlers of Barasinghas. Their shiny coat blended so well with the grassland that it seemed as if the grass had the tree branches attached to it.
Just next to them was another similar herd of male swamp deers, lying cosily in the grass. They would have had their breakfast and must be looking for a power nap. I was falling in love with these handsome stags!
Their antlers and the shiny coats were so attractive! I wanted to get down, brush it, feel it and hug it. Those big wide eyes are staring at me! Gosh!, My heart sure did melt.
We stood there for a while, gazing at the Barasinghas until they got tired and decided to move away.
Cool Facts about Barasingha
- Barasingha is the state animal of Madhya Pradesh.
- Kanha national park is the first park to announce a mascot representing the park, and guess what it would be?
- A BArasingha, of course. The mascot is called Bhoorsingh the Barasinga. Bhoorsingh means golden antlers.
- Kanha National park is the only place where you can spot these endangered hard ground swamp deer in Central India. They can also be seen in preserved conservation centres along the Gangetic plains, as in the Kaziranga National Park.
- Barasingha prefers to eat tall grass and water plants from swamplands.
- Barasingha usually lives in a same-sex herd. Even if you get to see a mixed herd, it would usually be a young male, mostly with his mom.
- A single male usually mates with multiple females. The female gives birth to a single baby.
- Males are called bucks and stags. Females are called does and fawns.
In a similar conservation effort, blackbucks are newly being introduced into Kanha National Park. The last time I was here, they weren’t there then. I got to see many blackbucks roaming around the park too. They could be seen roaming alongside the spotted deers.
Hope their tribe flourishes and Kanha National Park be filled with the elegant handsome Barasingha and thug like Blackbuck. :)
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How To Reach Kanha National Park
Jabalpur is the closest airport to Kanha National Park. From there you can hire a cab. Drive down to Mandla and from there follow the road to Khatia gate or Mukki gate depending upon where you have booked your accommodation.
Flights flying to Jabalpur usually have a costly airfare, so you can fly to Nagpur airport instead. And from there it is about 5 hours or so by road. There is no direct bus to Kanha, go to Seoni and figure out from there.
If you are coming from Bhopal, get on an overnight train to Jabalpur. From Jabalpur, the bus leaves to Mandla at 7 am and from Mandla the connecting bus leaves at 11:30 am. By 1:45 pm you will be at Kanha. Two years back there was a direct bus to Kanha leaving at 7 am and I thought that’s how it is, but I couldn’t find it when I went to Jabalpur bus stand and was told the direct bus is only at 9 am. These are the available options.
How to Book Safari - Kanha National Park
Kanha safari tickets sell-off like hotcakes and need to be booked well in advance.
Booking a wildlife safari with Madhya Pradesh National Parks is a hassle-free process. Look for free slots and book them online by visiting the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department Website. Lookup for Kanha National Park under the Tiger reserves. Note that here you are paying only for the safari ticket; the safari and the jeep costs are separate, which comes to about Rs.5000/- roughly.
Six people can share a jeep. If you are a solo traveller, you can book a single seat in the jeep for yourself, and the rest would be shared with other random travellers. You can also book tickets at the gate, but it is pretty tough, and availability will not be guaranteed.
Book well in advance and prepare yourself for a safari of a lifetime.
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