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Panna National Park a Survival Story

Updated on October 7, 2022
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Uday works as a naturalist and birding guide in India. He handles package tours as a leader and a guide to many destinations................

Till There Were None

It was a field biologist who first rang the bell. Tigers are not being seen... fewer tigresses! This was at Panna Tiger Reserve located in Chhatarpur and Panna District of Madhya Pradesh. The forests constitute the catchment area of Ken River.

Declared the best National Park in the year 2007, the tiger population was down to zero by 2009. Tigers were poached to become locally extinct. This was done by organized gangs with the collusion of forest staff.

All the euphoria about the security status of the big cats had already died down after the mayhem at Sariska, and now Panna experienced it as well. The reserves had lost their tigers to poachers, 32 in Sariska, and 40 in the latter.

A large-scale survey of big cats was carried out only to confirm that there were none. The park had lost Panthera tigris Tigris species completely in a span of a few years. A fantastic gene pool became extinct forever and with it died all the conservation ethos that the Project Tiger Program promised. The tourism industry died a slow suffocating death with enormous investment to lose. With the reduction in tourism, many jobs were lost, and the locals were the worst sufferers.

Tiger At Rest

Tiger at Rest
Tiger at Rest | Source

Eagle in Flight

Bonelli's Eagle
Bonelli's Eagle | Source

Griffons at Panna

Eurasian and Himalayan Vultures
Eurasian and Himalayan Vultures | Source

Panna National Park

The park in Northern Madhya Pradesh is a biodiversity hub. The forest comprises broad-leafed teak and mixed dry deciduous types. Panna National Park became a tiger reserve in the year 1994 and came under the aegis of the Project Tiger Program.

Home to many charismatic mammals, the reserve came to fame due to tiger poaching that took place in a span of ten years or so. Panna park is home to tigers, leopards, sambar, sloth bear, Nilgai, spotted deer, barking, deer, four-horned deer, and wild boar. Wild dog is often seen while langurs and peacocks are fairly common.

Bird life includes Bar Headed Geese, Eurasian Vulture, Himalayan Vulture, Painted Spurfowl, Paradise Flycatcher, White Backed and Long Billed vultures plus more than two hundred avians which include winter migrants.

Ken River Sanctuary lies next to the park and intersects it at many places. The sanctuary is home to marsh crocodiles, gharial, and many species of turtles. Near to the park are the World famed Khajuraho temples which could be visited whence staying at Panna Tiger Reserve.

Tiger Country

Tiger Habitat in Panna
Tiger Habitat in Panna | Source


Poachers with Forest Guards
Poachers with Forest Guards | Source


Do you think CBI inquiry should have taken place?

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Investigations: How tigers where poached?

Tigers at Panna were either snared, shot, or poisoned by the local hunting community called Pardhis along with the involvement of criminals located elsewhere. The nexus ranged right up till New Delhi pointing fingers at Sansar Chand and company. Sansar Chand was a notorious criminal involved in the large-scale poaching and trading of banned animal parts in India.

An investigating team was formed which discovered collusion between some forest officials and poachers. There were instances of tiger poaching whence cases were not registered by the forest department. The report directly indicts officers of two ranges for willful negligence and possible involvement.

There was no CBI ( Central Bureau of Investigation) inquiry constituted by the State then. This would have resulted in a complete investigation and involvement of high officials if any. An investigation report by a high official was also not well received by the Chief Wildlife Warden then. He pointed out many lacunas in investigations and the technique used. The investigating team made original seizures of evidence. As per newspaper reports, there was an incident of poaching whence the persons were also named but no case was registered - possibly after a graft.

In the year 2007, an encounter took place with a large vehicle parked inside with lights on. The occupants escaped leaving guns and signs of blood. This incident was never properly investigated and the vehicle belonging to a relative of a powerful minister was eventually released without conducting any tests.

Much evidence was also seized from the range offices inside the tiger reserve by the investigating team. More persons were implicated by the report but no action was taken till the publication of the newspaper accounts.

As per suggestion SIT (Special Investigation Team) was constituted by the MOEF (Ministry of Environment & Forest). But this body set up by the State Government put the blame on gender imbalance, migration, and whatnot. The then Forest Minister of Madhya Pradesh State was also in favor of the CBI inquiry but no such decision was made.

It is unbelievable that tigers died due to reasons other than poaching. On such occurrence, few tigers would have survived for sure. Even in case of disease, some of the big cats would have survived in the neighboring forests.

Panna News Video

Bengal Tiger

tiger photo
tiger photo | Source

Tiger Photo

Male Tiger
Male Tiger | Source

Young Tiger

young Tiger
young Tiger | Source


In the middle of the status of big cats in Panna - which by all means was farcical - a need for females was accessed. It was assumed that for the few male tigers in the park there was no female left. By the time females were trans-located, the management realized the complete absence of males as well.

Subsequently, more tigers were brought from other National Parks in Madhya Pradesh. This happened in the post-2009 era after the park was officially declared tigerless. Today more than 14 tigers survive in the park with a good record of breeding. The number includes cubs as well. The successful adaptation to an absolutely new habitat has been a big conservation success. The big cats are of migratory nature and hence adapt to strange environments quickly. The success also augurs a better future for the animals since they could be sent to areas with scant or no population from destinations that are overpopulated.

Crocodile at Ken River

Marsh Crocodile
Marsh Crocodile | Source

Vultures at Panna

Vultures at Panna National Park in MP
Vultures at Panna National Park in MP | Source

Water Hole

Water Hole in the Jungle
Water Hole in the Jungle | Source

Khajuraho Temple Complex

Temple of Khajuraho
Temple of Khajuraho | Source

Male Tiger & Cub Photo

Male Tiger with Cub Photo
Male Tiger with Cub Photo | Source


The 543 sq. km park is at a distance of 25 km from Khajuraho Township and is known for its temples with erotic carvings. Khajuraho is well connected by air and rail.

Satna is the nearest railhead at a distance of ninety km. The rail route is on Kolkata to Mumbai track. Panna is well connected by bus service with many towns in Madhya Pradesh.

Wild Boar

Wild Boar at Panna National Park
Wild Boar at Panna National Park

Cub Photo

Photo Tiger Cubs
Photo Tiger Cubs | Source


Tigers at Panna are breeding well after the reintroduction program in the year 2009. But sadly a tigress died a few days back due to infection from the radio collar. There are more than fourteen tigers in the park now.

Panna LandScape

Panna Forest Landscape
Panna Forest Landscape | Source

Location Map

Panna National Park:
Panna National Park, Madhya Pradesh 471405, India

get directions

Find location map of Panna National Park and Tiger Reserve in MP in India.

© 2014 Uday Patel


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