Nestled in the southern fringes of the Satpura Range, dissected by the meandering Pench river which gives it its name, the Pench National Park is a pristine wildlife habitat that falls within the territorial limits of two states – Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The park was established in 1975 and subsequently declared as the Kanha-Pench Tiger Conservation Unit under Project Tiger in 1992. The park extends well over 758sq.km. Pench is a unique montage of undulating topography, small hills, valleys, large water bodies and islands amid the woods. Pench’s enthralling landscape and its diverse wildlife is what inspired Sir Rudyard Kipling to write The Jungle Book.

The land supports a mosaic of dry deciduous and moist deciduous forests. Teak (Tectona grandis) is the dominant species in the forest. Saaj (Terminalia elliptica), Mahua (Madhuca longifolia), Bhootya (Sterculia urens), Lendia (Lagerstroemia parviflora) and Dhaora (Anogeissus latifolia) are some of the other trees in the region. Wide stretches of scrubland and patches of bamboo add a unique charm to the place.

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At the top of the food chain in Pench are two of India's iconic predators; the Royal Bengal Tiger(r) and the Indian Leopard (l), the region serving up a substantial prey base in a diverse set of herbivores.

The meandering Pench river and the infinite lush carpets of grass create a haven for herbivores that accumulate in great numbers. The park is home to around 39 species of mammals, 210+ migrant and resident birds and about 30 species of reptiles. Apart from iconic species like the Dhole, Bengal Tiger, Indian Leopard and Indian Grey Wolf, the area is also known for large herds of Indian Gaur, Chital, Nilgai, Sambar and Indian Wild Boar. One can also spot animals such as Sloth Bear, Chousingha, Striped Hyena, Small Indian Civet, Bengal Monitor, Rusty-spotted Cat, Ruddy Mongoose and Indian Rock Python. 

Pench is equally a haven for birdwatchers with its large population of avifaunal species. It is very common to spot critically endangered species like the Long-billed Vulture and White-rumped Vulture. Other species of birds that can be seen and photographed here are Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Crested Treeswift, Osprey, Sirkeer Malkoha, Grey Nightjar, Brown Fish Owl, Grey-headed Fishing Eagle and Malabar Pied Hornbill. Migratory birds such as Indian Pitta, Taiga Flycatcher, Jacobin Cuckoo, Ruddy Shelduck and Bar-headed Goose make an annual stop here.

Scroll down to see some of these charismatic individuals in the glorious landscape of Pench.

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Collarwali (T-15), born in the year 2002, has contributed the most to the present gene pool of Pench tigers. She has littered more than 7-8 times, delivering about 30+ cubs. She and her siblings have played muse for several wildlife documentaries that have been shot in Pench. In the photograph are Collarwali with her cubs from the litter of 2017.
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Three male sub-adult cubs of Collarwali from her litter in the year 2015. As per the Forest Department, they have moved outside the tourism area and established their own territories.
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Another spawn from the Collarwali litter, this hefty male is now in control of his own territory in Pench. Infamous for mock-charging safari vehicles, he is known as ‘Chota Charger’. He can be regularly spotted spray-marking and walking the beat around his territory, which is often accompanied by loud alarm calls and sprinting Chital.
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Referred to as ‘Bhagin Nala’, the tigress was dominant in the area near the entry gate of Pench. She unfortunately became a victim of poisoning.
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The rocky and hilly terrain of Pench serves as an ideal habitat for leopards, with a good prey base of small herbivorous animals. A black panther/melanistic leopard has also been seen often in the region.
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A sub-adult leopard climbs to the top of a tree right before the area is raided by a pack of wild dogs. The Dholes were possibly attracted to the scent of the kill lying nearby, and had come to inspect the area unaware of the leopards on the branch of the tree above.
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While one of the sub-adult leopards was spotted atop the tree, his sibling was seen amid the rocks nearby. The moment the wild dogs retreated, the leopards quickly came back to the ground and disappeared into the thickets. 
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River Pench submerges large portions of the park during the course of the year. In summers, when the water level comes down, several land elevations emerge out of the water owing to the undulating landscape of the park. The catchment area of Pench and the undulations/islands develop lush green vegetation which attracts all kinds of species. The perennial river is a haven for river-dwelling species too. 
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This also saw the park attract fishermen, and it was a common sight during safaris to see large hordes of fishermen and local villagers by the shore. It was a mammoth task for the forest department to try and keep a check on the situation and were eventually able to put a stop to rampant fishing and other illegal activities under the guise of fishing in the Sillari Zone of Pench. It was in the summer of 2017 that the forest department took stern action and conducted extensive searches and in the process seized tiger skins, trophies and other articles from culprits.
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The threat of plastic fishing nets is not just confined to aquatic life, but a persistent danger to the survival of many species. A Chital is the victim of the same, with the fishing net entangled in his antlers. It could possibly inhibit his vision and other olfactory/auditory receptors. It is possibly an inhibition to its ability to camouflage with the surroundings as well. 
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Once fishing was banned within the park and the local fishers were allocated alternative water bodies for their livelihoods, even areas such as Boat Camp (fishing hotspot) started seeing animals make a comeback. Herds of Chital and Sambar were spotted grazing at Boat Camp, and even tigers started showing up. It is highly gratifying to witness nature reclaiming what’s her’s as soon as we humans retreat.