Panna National Park

Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
Panna National Park is located in the northern part of Madhya Pradesh and spreads over two districts, Panna and Chhattarpur. It is 37 km from the airport at Khajuraho, a World Heritage site famous for its beautifully sculpted temples. Satna is the nearest railhead, c. 70 km from the Park headquarters. The forest of Panna was the game reserve of the erstwhile princely states of Bijawar, Chhattarpur and Panna. The boundaries of the earlier Gangau Wildlife Sanctuary were modified in 1981, to create the present Panna National Park. In 1994, it became India’s 22nd Tiger Reserve. Panna can boast of some of the most ruggedly beautiful scenery, vast flat plateaux separated by steep escarpments, ranging from 30 to 100 m. Talgoan and Hinota plateau extend over roughly half of the Park. Three villages located on the Hinota plateau were relocated in the early 1980s, creating a large area free of human disturbance (Yoganand 2001). This now forms the core area of the Park. More than a third of the Park the Chandranagar range, lies to the west of the Ken river. This area is a mosaic of tablelands and valleys. Unfortunately, this range suffers from high biotic pressure due to its proximity to villages. Ken River, which joins the Yamuna, passes through the Park forming a perennial source of water in this area. The main forest types in the Park are Tropical Dry Deciduous Mixed Forest with Teak Tectona grandis. Although predominantly an open forest, Panna supports varied vegetation types: closed canopy forested areas, which occur mostly along the escarpments, stream beds and less disturbed areas; open forests with short grass and shrub understorey; open savannah woodlands on the shallow plateau; tall grasslands that grow in relocated village sites and degraded scrub, largely towards the south and the periphery (Yoganand 2001).

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: In a checklist prepared by the Wildlife Institute of India (Gogate et al. 2002), 228 species of birds have been listed, but later six more (Yellow-legged Button-quail Turnix tanki, Barred Buttonquail Turnix suscitator, Slaty-breasted Rail Gallirallus striatus, Brown Hawk Owl, Ninox scutulata, Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus and the Grey-necked Bunting Emberiza buchanani) have been added (Koustubh Sharma pers. comm 2003). Panna is perhaps the best and most extensive forest left in northcentral Madhya Pradesh in the Bundelkhand area. It is located at the junction of the Deccan and the Indo-Gangetic Plains, therefore the bird life is very rich. With about 235 species of birds, it hosts almost all the biome assemblage species of this area, thus justifying its selection as an IBA. Another reason for its selection is that Panna still has a breeding colony of the Critically Endangered Long-billed Vulture Gyps indicus. During the 2002 breeding season, five active nests were observed at Dhundhwa cliffs of Hinauta Range, which were regularly monitored. Only one of these nests seemingly succeeded and a fledgling flew off during the observation period. Many other cliffs of this Park could have nesting sites and need to be further investigated. The vultures, though substantially depleted in number, still can be seen on carcasses around the Park. The Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus, listed as Vulnerable can be seen in Panna frequently after late winters. The Birdlife International(undated) has listed 59 species in Biome-11. Panna NP has 32, including the two Gyps species mentioned earlier. The list is too long to be mentioned here.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Among the large predators, Tiger Panthera tigris is the top carnivore in the Reserve with its nearest competitor being the Leopard Panthera pardus followed by rarely seen packs of Dhole or Wild Dog Cuon alpinus. The best known areas of animal distribution are Madla, Hinouta and Panna ranges. The various habitat types available in these ranges provide haven to good populations of Chinkara Gazella bennettii, Nilgai Boselaphus tragocamelus, Sloth Bear Melursus ursinus, Chital Axis axis, Sambar Cervus unicolor and Wild Boar Sus scrofa. Panna also boasts of a good population of Four-horned antelope Tetracerus quadricornis, which can be seen mostly in thick grassy areas, patches of good undergrowth and moderate canopy cover.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Tourism; Pilgrims; Man-animal conflict; Forest fires; Livestock grazing; Mining of sandstone and diamond; Illicit activities such as felling of trees and poaching; Unsustainable exploitation of the forest resources; Collection of firewood.

The Park has a special place in north-central Madhya Pradesh from the point of view of ecology, vegetation, and culture and is a true representative of Bundelkhand region. Thirteen villages still remain inside the Park’s boundary and they are the major source of disturbance, especially their cattle and their dependence on forest products which varies in kind and quantity throughout the year, according to seasons. During summer, these villagers bring hordes of their cattle to graze inside the Park, as there is hardly any fodder left outside. The biggest and irreversible damage done to the Park and surroundings is by the Panna diamond mine, the numerous sandstone quarries and the pressure placed on the forests by hordes of mine labourers (Yoganand 2001). The Government-owned National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) is situated just outside the Park and falls within the earlier Gangau Wildlife Sanctuary. This mine contravenes the guidelines of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, that industrial sites maintain a minimum distance of 25 km from ecologically sensitive areas although to be honest, these mines were present much before the Park was declared. Slurry from the mine enters the Kaimasan nullah, which flows into the Tiger Reserve. Though poaching is not as serious a problem yet, it needs to be continuously monitored as there are a number of local tribes like Bahalias, who are hunters by tradition. These locals kill wild animals if protection is lax. Herbivores cause massive damage to the crop of villages inside and around the Park boundary which at times has severe fallouts. This man-animal conflict leads to laying of snares by villagers in order to kill animals not only outside, but inside the Park boundary as well. Another very important issue with Panna Tiger Reserve is the absence of buffer zone which also violates the Project Tiger guidelines. This puts tremendous pressure on the natural resources of the Park due to the influx of humans.

Key contributors: Koustubh Sharma and T. Yoganand.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Panna National Park. Downloaded from on 24/03/2023.