Conservation history of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve or National Park is not very old. It is only 40 yrs old. Present Tala range was donated by Late H.H.Rewa in 1968. Before it it was his one of the favourite hunting ground to shoot Tigers. In those days their belief was that shooting 108 tigers by one person in his life time brings you good luck???
Maharaja of Rewa shot 108 Tigers easily in his life time. In India Maharajas lost their privipurse rights in Late Indira Gandhi's first tenure as Prime Minister of India. She did not stop here. Later on she brought Land Sealing Act to help Vinoba Bhave in his mission.
I first visited this park in 1979 with Late Ashutosh Dubey, Ranger M.P.Forest Depttt. On that most of the hills were barren. One could see animal walking on hills. There were hardly any big trees in the park. Bamboo was very poor only because till 1968, a nearby paper mill did bamboo extraction from Bandhavgarh. That day when I asked road name to our Guide Bhuvan Bhaskar Pandey he replied Birla Road. Some roads here still called Birla Road.
Today when we see the jungle in Tala range the average age of trees is not more 30-35 yrs. We don’t see many good old trees. Once I got a census figure paper of 1968-69 and there was no mention of any Tiger in Tala range. Sambhar figure was higher than Spotted Deer. Only 4 leopard and few wild boar and Muntjak were mentioned in that list.
Mr Jagat Jyoti Dutta was conservator of Forest in M.P.Forest Department in 1968 and assigned the duty to take over the designated land for M.P.Forest from Maharaja of Rewa. He wrote me that that time along with Maharaja of Rewa and that time Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh he drove in Tala area for three consecutive nights without seeing a single quadruped. Maharaja was not very pleased with the situation in his shikargah. Loosing the control on his land could be the one reason helped him to decide to donate this land to Government with a condition of declaring it as National Park.
Late Sh. Amar Singh ji told me that at that time Khitauli was a much better hunting block than any other area in 200 km radius of Umaria. One of his client shot seven tigers in a day. Those were the days. Tiger was rated as a pest when alive and once dead treated as God . Late Ajay Kumar Reddy showed me the photograph villagers praying to dead Tiger as a symbol of Goddess Durga.
Once the habitat in Tala range improved Tigers from Khitauli range must have moved in. Official figures of 1979 Tiger census in Bandhavgarh National Park shows 20 plus including cubs. Today after 28 years there figure in Tala range is 3 adult male, 8 adult female and 18 cubs of different age group. Surplus population born in Tala range and moved out must be living some where in other ranges but no one talks about them in tourism industry. People in tourism industry talk only about those things that they can show to tourists to prove themselves right.