The Ken Gharial Sanctuary is a nature tourism site in the Panna national park area in Madhya Pradesh. The sanctuary is situated at the rendezvous point of the Rivers Ken and Khudar. It is nearly 24 km away from Khajuraho city and within the Chattarpur district in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Ken Gharial Sanctuary is among the very few sanctuaries in India that have a dedicated breeding program, nurture and proper housing of the ‘Gharial’, the Indian variety of the crocodile species. Ken Gharial Sanctuary which spreads across an area of 45 sq. km, is managed by the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department and comes under the purview of Gharial Conservation association under which the gharials are bred in captivity and are released in order to replenish the gharial population here.
The Gharial which is the main attraction of the Ken Gharial Sanctuary is a rare breed of reptiles and is also popularly known as the ‘Indian Gharial’ or ‘Ghavial’. Although they share the same line of evolutionary descent as the crocodile species, they lack the sheer skull strength and jaw power that is the key characteristic possessed by the crocodile. They differ from the crocodiles in their appearance and are characterized by their extremely elongated and slender snouts. They have supple body movements a trait rarely seen in crocodiles and are proficient in capturing wee fishes. The gharials in Ken Gharial Sanctuary have been recorded as growing up to 6m long. While there are myths of ‘killer gharial’ the fact is that these animals are not competent in consuming humans but it must be said that maintaining a safe distance from any such creature is always advisable. The number of mature adult gharials that can breed within the Ken Gharial Sanctuary is not very high and hence they appear on the ‘Red List’ i.e ‘critically’ endangered in the IUCN Endangered Species List.
The Ken Gharial Sanctuary is essentially a forested area and part of the Panna tiger reserve. So it is natural to sight many other wildlife species while visiting the place. The sanctuary is home to wildlife species like sambar deer, nilgai (bluebull), pea fowl, wild boar, spotted deer, chinkara, mountain lizard and peacock. The shaheen falcon is also sighted easily. Sometimes if you are lucky enough, you may be able to sight the sloth bear or leopard in the evening hours. The region mostly has a rocky terrain and hence we do not see very dense vegetation and it seems to be a dry deciduous region. The landscape has forests, deep gorges and long canyons. Granite and Sandstone rock formations in grey, yellow and pink give a colourful picture. The Ken Gharial Sanctuary flora attraction includes Teak, Sal, Seja, Gunja, Palash (Flame of Forest), Khair etc.
Ken Gharial Sanctuary can be visited from sunrise to sunset but boating times and spot are fixed. The sanctuary is open to public in the months of October through June. It remains closed for visitors during the monsoons. It is mandatory to be accompanied by trained guides provided by the forest department while visiting the Ken Gharial Sanctuary. The nearest airport is at Khajuraho and the nearest railway station is Satna at a distance of 150 km.
Featured Photo by soham_pablo