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Wild Madhya Pradesh

Wild Madhya Pradesh

With unparalleled cultural and natural heritage, Madhya Pradesh lies, literally and figuratively, at the heart of India. An astounding one-third of the state is still forested and harbours within its folds an exciting array of flora and fauna. The landscape of this tiger state is dominated by the Deccan plateau that gives way to the rolling hill ranges of the Vindhyas and the Satpuras. Rivers like the Narmada, Tapti and Chambal sustain these dense, central Indian forests and water the rich biodiversity contained within. Home to six tiger reserves, 10 national parks and 25 wildlife sanctuaries, Madhya Pradesh is a veritable wonderland, a wildlife destination without compare.

Photo: Steve Winter

The royal Bengal tiger has become the ultimate symbol of India’s gargantuan conservation efforts. The tiger should be looked at as a metaphor for all living creatures large and small that can be protected by securing its habitat. The tiger in conservation terms is an umbrella species, whose conservation helps secure the future of other species within an ecological community.

Photo: Arjun Kamdar

The Satpura Tiger Reserve is home to the smallest wild cat in the world, the rusty-spotted cat Prionailurus rubiginosus.

Photo: Anish Andheria

Madhya Pradesh boasts of the world’s largest extant bovine – the gaur Bos gaurus. Though more commonly found in evergreen and moist deciduous forests, the gaur can also survive in dry deciduous forests such as Ratapani.

Photo: Sanjay Shukla

The elusive and endangered Indian pangolin Manis crassicaudatais is truly an enigma. Extremely shy, its armoured body, curled up in defence, makes for one tough prey to devour. However, the biggest danger it faces is from the human race. Hunted for its scales, the pangolin is the most trafficked mammal on the planet.

Photo: Sarang Mhaskar

Predators are ‘tourist magnets’. Whether it is the leopard or canids such as dholes Cuon alpinus, evidence of carnivore presence does change the visitor’s experience.

Photo: Joseph Vattakaven

And do not underestimate the dhole’s prowess, for a pack of these animals can very well bring down prey twice its size, such as the hardground barasingha Rucervus duvaucelii, the state animal of Madhya Pradesh.

Photo: Yogesh Deshmukh

Dholes do not hesitate to steal kills from larger predators as they rely on the strength of the pack rather than individual effort. By contrast leopards Panthera pardus fusca are solitary hunters and will only confront a dhole if encountered singly or in pairs.

Photo: Siddhant Arya

The Satpura Tiger Reserve lies at the northern foothills of the majestic Satpura range. The Satpura and Maikal ranges together constitute one of the largest contiguous tiger habitats in India.

Photo: Gaurav Shirodkar

Crested Serpent Eagles Spilornis cheela (left) are commonly seen raptors in tropical and sub-tropical forests.

Photo: Anish Andheria

A species less easily spotted is the Scaly Thrush Zootherma dauma (right). Shy and highly cryptic, it forages amidst low hanging vegetation or on the ground.

Photo: Anup Deodhar

Drama abounds at each bend in the forest. Here a pesky, but fearless Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos challenges a much larger Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus, perhaps for its share of carrion.

Photo: Pranad Patil

The ubiquitous dung beetle, order Coleoptera, goes about rolling dung for either the females to lay their eggs in or for the adults to eat.

Photo: Anish Andheria

A predator-prey tussle plays out between a spider wasp of the Pompilidae family as it tranquillises a spider. The spider wasp will drag its prey to its burrow, wherein it will lay a solitary egg on the alive-but-paralysed spider. When the larva hatches, it has a ready source of food in the form of the paralysed host.

Photo: David Raju

A new pit viper, possibly Trimeresurus albolabris (white-lipped pit viper) or Trimeresurus erythrurus (red-tailed pit viper), was recorded from the eastern Satpura hills around Kanha. This snake was overlooked earlier because of its strong resemblance to the bamboo pit viper. The red tail and the faint reddish line on the side of the head are the key markers that separate it from the bamboo pit viper.

First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXVIII No. 10, October 2018.

 
 
 

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