Exploring the Rich Fauna of Kanha National Park: Beyond Tigers to Barasingha and More
Nestled in the heart of Madhya Pradesh, the Kanha National Park stands as a testament to India's diverse and thriving wildlife. While it is renowned as a Tiger Reserve, there's a lesser-known but equally captivating side to Kanha—the vibrant array of deer and antelope species that call this sanctuary home. In this detailed exploration, we delve into the distinctive features, conservation efforts, and the fascinating stories behind some of Kanha's most iconic inhabitants.
The Distinction Between Deer and Antelopes
Horns and Antlers
- Deer: Possess antlers, exclusive to male deer, shed annually, and branched.
- Antelope: Bears horns made of living bone, permanent, and unbranched.
- Deer: Belongs to the family Cervidae.
- Antelope: Part of the family Bovidae.
The Barasingha – A Majestic Deer Species
Popularly known as the swamp deer, the Barasingha (Rucervus duvaucelli) graces the landscapes of south-western Nepal, northern India, and central India, with Kanha as one of its vital habitats. The distinguishing feature of the Barasingha is its antlers, boasting more than three tines, earning it the name "Barasingha" meaning twelve-tined.
The challenges of constant poaching pushed this majestic species to the brink of extinction. Thanks to the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, Kanha has become a stronghold for Barasingha conservation, leading to its designation as the state animal of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
In 2017, Kanha National Park set a unique precedent by adopting Bhoorsingh the Barasingha as its official mascot. Crafted by renowned cartoonist Rohan Chakravarty, this initiative aimed to raise awareness, especially among the younger generation, about the importance of preserving this unique species.
Sambar Deer – A Stalwart in Kanha's Wilderness
The Sambar deer (Rusa unicolour) stands as one of the largest native deer species in Kanha. Its presence is a common sight in the lush surroundings of the Tiger Reserve. Identified by chestnut marks on the underparts and rump, the Sambar deer plays a crucial role in the ecosystem, serving as a favored prey for the Royal Bengal Tiger.
Barking Deer – The Omnivorous Marvel
Scientifically known as Muntiacus Muntjak, the Barking Deer, or Kakar in Hindi, adds a unique flair to Kanha's biodiversity. Not endangered, this species boasts a versatile diet, including grass, eggs of birds, and small animals. Its distinctive barking sound lends it multiple names, emphasizing its adaptability in different environments.
Chital or the Spotted Deer – A Visual Delight
The Chital, also known as the spotted deer or Axis axis, graces Kanha National Park with its distinctive spotted appearance. Found in substantial numbers, these deer move in single file, displaying a breathtaking sight with their white-spotted upper parts. The antlers, a feature exclusive to male deer, add to the allure of this species.
Chousingha – The Four-Horned Antelope
In a league of its own, the four-horned antelope stands out with its unique feature of having four horns. Thriving in areas with dense grass cover, this herbivorous species finds protection under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, contributing to the rich tapestry of Kanha's wildlife conservation efforts.
Beyond Kanha: Exploring Other Deer and Antelope Species in India
While Kanha is a haven for several deer and antelope species, India's vast subcontinent harbors other unique varieties not found within the park's boundaries. Some notable mentions include:
- Sangai or Brow-Antlered Deer: Endangered, residing in the wetlands of Loktak Lake in Manipur.
- Leaf Deer: Exclusive to the thick forest regions of Noklal in Nagaland and Namdapha Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh.
- Himalayan Goral: Thriving in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
- Himalayan Serow: Native to the Himalayas, found in Sikkim.
- Indian Hog Deer: Exclusive to Kaziranga National Park, Assam.
- Himalayan Musk Deer: State animal of Uttarakhand, dwelling in the Himalayas.
- Black Buck: Spotted in Corbett, Bandhavgarh, and Velavadar National Parks.
- Chinkara or Indian Gazelle: Found in Ranthambore and Bandhavgarh National Park.
- Nilgai: Widespread in India, absent in eastern states and the Malabar coast.
- Red Deer or Hangul: Restricted to Dachigam National Park in Jammu & Kashmir.
Kanha National Park, with its multifaceted ecosystem, provides a glimpse into the rich diversity of deer and antelope species that grace the Indian subcontinent. From the majestic Barasingha to the resilient Sambar deer, each species contributes to the intricate balance of nature within the sanctuary's confines. As we celebrate the conservation successes of Kanha, let us also acknowledge the broader canvas of India's wildlife, where each species, whether thriving in Kanha or beyond, plays a vital role in maintaining the delicate harmony of our natural heritage.