Nauradehi or Noradehi WLS lies in Sagar, Damoh & Narsignhpur Districts in Vindhya Hills with affinity to Narmada Valley dry deciduous forest. The forest are Southern tropical dry deciduous mix type. The approach to the sanctuary is from Jabalpur, Sagar and Damoh in MP. The Jabalpur Sagar Highway goes through the WLS and is a great source of disturbance to wildlife.
Nauradehi was declared a wildlife sanctuary in the year 1977 and encompasses an are of 1187 sq.km. It is among one of the largest sanctuaries in India. In spite of its large area the preserve is in a state of decline. The mammalian density is very low and limited to few un-scarred areas. The sanctuary exists as fragmented patches of forest with density varying considerably. The sanctuary needs considerably research and study of its habitats, flora, fauna and avi-fauna.
Villages – Relocation
None of the villages have been shifted so far albeit the relocation process has been initiated since a number of years. The movement in the forest is not restricted and tree felling for firewood is openly carried out everywhere. The expanding villages and urbanization of life style sounds a death knell for already beleaguered forests. The expansion of villages have resulted in conversion of large tracts of forests in to agriculture fields. The biotic pressure on the preserve is severe with demand for wood and extensive live stock grazing. Live stock grazing in the sanctuary is unchecked.
Animals – Tigers
Nauradehi and surrounding forests were once high density tiger heavens. One could come across tigers on all approach roads to Sagar, Damoh and Narsinghpur. The forest that constitute Noradehi WLS were the best tiger habitats in those days as late as 1960s. Sadly this is no more.
Tigers are not seen here anymore albeit there are unconfirmed reports of tiger and leopard sightings here and there. The forest have suffered habitat degradation in the past and most of the trees I could see are young. Along with habitat degradation other contributory factors for the local extinction of tigers and leopards are poaching, decrease in prey base and population explosion in the large number of villages that are within the WLS.
The keystone specie presently is the Indian wolf which on my subsequent visit appears to be nowhere abundant. With neglect and depredation the sanctuary faces, it is apparent that all major mammals are loosing ground. The reserve is home to Chinkara and Black Buck the latter confined to forest area in Damoh district. Nilgais are conspicuous by their relative abundance, spotted deer and sambar deer can be seen occasionally in day time. The sanctuary is home to fresh water crocodiles and smooth otters seen on the banks of the river especially at crocodile point. Many species of small mammals, reptiles and insect are waiting to be discovered. The sanctuary is home to sloth bear as well.
I could checklist more than eighty resident species here and am waiting to come across spotted grey creeper. Raptors to appear to be abundant. Nauradehi is one of the few pockets where white backed vulture survives and breeds. King vulture and Egyptian vulture are often seen and the habitat is suggestive of the presence of long billed vulture as well. I saw a juvenile at Cheola Lake and an adult in flight. The region around Cheola Lake is best for wildlife safaris and birding. The water body is home to interesting wetland birds and one can see resident whistling teal, little grebe, painted storks, lesser adjutant storks, gray heron and many more.
The WLS has tremendous scope for wildlife watching and birding tours in India. Like all preserves there is a criss cross of motor able jungle roads in the sanctuary. There is no proper regulation at the gate since it is a highway connecting Sagar and Jabalpur. A guide can be arranged at Mohali forest rest house. It would be advisable to take assistance from the DFO who sits at Sagar.
Tourism is not at all regulated and very few tourists visit the sanctuary. The place has great tourism potential as the eco region and keystone mammalian species seen are much different from Kanha, Bandhavgarh National Park and Pench tiger reserves in MP.
If proper conservation measures are put in place tourism will increase and perhaps the tigers and leopards will return.
For more information on wildlife safaris and birding at Noradehi please contact The Penthouse. Privately owned hotel accommodation The Penthouse in Jabalpur organizes package tours for birding and safaris at Noradehi.
Winters upto March is the best time to be at this WLS in Madhya Pradesh in India. Rani Durgavati Wildlife Sanctuary is about fifty km from Noradehi.