Panna tiger reserve has a special place personally for me. I have three personal firsts associated with this national park. It was here that I had my very first tiger sighting in the wild. This was also the place where I had my first and only tiger sighting while sitting on an elephant. Lastly, this is the only tiger reserve where I visited twice and had tiger sightings on both the occasions. And this time around, it was fortunate sighting of two cubs (photo above and below). Unluckily though, their mother remained elusive, although she was around.
The gap of almost eleven years between these two visits to Panna had been a period of turmoil for this Tiger reserve. The story of Panna Tiger Reserve has not an ordinary one. A story of all hopes lost to an extraordinary resurrection. By 2009, Panna has lost all of its tigers. An area known for its precious diamonds and tigers was left with no more than an abandoned piece of land. Panna had gone the same way as Sariska in Rajasthan four years earlier. I felt the pain of photographing one of the last tigers of Panna.
But story of Panna’s revival was unparalleled in wildlife conservation, something that Sariska is still struggling for. A new team of officials was handed the charge and tigresses were brought in from Kanha and Bandhavgarh tiger reserves. A male tiger was brought in from Pench. Tigers were reintroduced into Panna and the endless efforts of the staff to ensure that they were raised safely within this deteriorating habitat. Combined with other efforts, in just five years tiger count in Panna went from zero to 25. Today Panna has more than 30 tigers. Just three years after the process of revival started, in 2012 Panna Tiger Reserve was awarded National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) award for active management and monitoring.
So, being in Panna once again and feeling the thrill of photographing the wild cats in their own habitat was so fulfilling.