Kuno National Park

Kuno national park Cheetah

INTRODUCTION

Kuno national park in Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh in Central India. It lies in North-West of Madhya Pradesh close to state border with Rajasthan thus effect of Rajasthan vegetation can be experienced in the forest of Kuno. It is in news since last few years due to lion & Cheetah rehabilitation project which in underway and close to completion. Wildlife experts are continuously visiting this wildlife to study & analyze circumstances here for lions & cheetahs. So far Asiatic lions are present in Gir National Park only in India and Cheetah are not present in India. If experts will succeed in their effort then this Kuno Palpur wildlife sanctuary will register its name in Wildlife History of India.

Kuno-Palpur wildlife sanctuary is spread over an area of 344.686 km² is one of the most well preserved and protected areas of Madhya Pradesh. It is situated between 77º 7´ and 77º 26´ E longitudes and 25º 20´ and 25º 53´ N latitude in world map. The existing area of 344.686 km² was notified as a WLS as per Govt. of M.P. notification no. 15-8-79-X-2 dated 16.01.1981. The WLS has its headquarters at Sheopur, which is the district headquarters. The sanctuary has a vast richness and diversity of indigenous flora and fauna which represents a typical cross-section of the dry deciduous forest of the Central India.

HISTORY

Kuno forest is a historical place. Presence of fort is witness of its grandeur and historical past. It lies in Sheopur district. Being close to Sawai Madhopur, here we can find the effect of Rajasthani culture. Rulers of Sawai Madhopur and Gwalior maintained their influence in this region. In 12th century, this region was under the rule of  Nareshwar Ajay Pal who made Sheopur as his capital. It was beginning of 14th century when Hammir Dev was the ruler of this region and faced the attack of Alauddin Khalji's attack on Ranthambore fort in 1301 AD. When Alauddin Khilji captured the Ranthambore fort, Sheopur fort went into his control and thus their ruled was established in this region. In 1489 AD, sultan Mahmood Khalji of Malwa took over the control of this region thus it became part of Malwa Sultanate. In year 1542, Sher Shah Suri captured this region and erected some buildings which are still existing in this region like Idgah prayer ground, masoleum etc. This control was for short period and later Bundi ruler Surjan Singh Hada captured this region for some time. Here some stability came in 1547 when Mughal emperor Akbar conquered this region and handed over the control to Gaurs of Agra to curb the influence of Scindia rulers of Gwalior. Although Gaurs ruled for many years but they failed to control the influence of Gwalior kingdom, in this region. When Asiatic lion disappeared from this forest region, Gwalior Maharaja tried to re-introduce African lions in this region. This shows their senstivity towards wildlife. He took the lions from Africa and put them in an enclosure for sometime so that they get adapted and later released. This attempt was failed as the lions disappeared from forest. Here local villagers are mainly from Saharia tribe. For development of wildlife in Kuno forest, they are relocated from forests with the help of meetings between local leaders and villagers. This forest was declared as wildlife sanctuary in year 1981 and since then here conservation practices were implemented on serious note. In order to achieve the objective of wildlife conservation, local villages of Sahariya tribes, were shifted to new location, out of forest land. In year 2018, it was notified as Kuno national park which was a matter of pride for this forest and thus hope for better wildlife management is expected here.

HOW TO REACH

Kuno forest is located on north-west Madhya Pradesh, close to the state border of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. It lies on Vindhya ranges.

Reaching Kuno National Park by Air :-

The nearest airport to Kuno Palpur is at Gwalior about 160 kms away from City of wildlife sanctuary. Pre-paid taxi services are available from the Gwalior airport to Kuno Palpur wildlife sanctuary. Gwalior airport is gaining new flight connectivity options thus air-connectivity of sanctuary will improve in coming days.

DISTANCE CHART
From
Distance
(in Kms)
Gwalior 140
Shivpuri 30
Jhansi 130
Orchha 140
Ranthambore 160
Bharatpur 300

Reaching Kuno National Park by Train/ Railways :-

The nearest railhead to Kuno Palpur is at Gwalior at a distance of 185 km from the sanctuary. Gwalior railway station (GWL) is very well connected from Delhi, Mumbai, Agra, Pune, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Bhopal etc.
 

Reaching Kuno National Park by Bus / Roadways :-

There are state owned transport buses from Gwalior to Sheopur that can be used to visit this wildlife sanctuary. Here nearby bus stand is Sesaipura from which we can get bus services for nearby cities and villages.

FOREST

Northern region of Madhya Pradesh is comparatively more rocky & dry in compare to Southern region of state. Kuno Palpur forest belongs to northern tropical dry deciduous category. The top canopy is dominated by the good growth of Kardhai (Anogeissus pendula), Khair (Acacia catechu), Salai (Boswellia serrata), and other associates like Gurjan (Lannea coromandelica), Dhaora (Anogeissus latifolia), Ber (Zizyphus spp.) and Tendu (Diospyros melanoxylan). In a large area, 03 major forest types i.e. (i) salai forest, (ii) kardhai forest and (iii) khair forest predominate. These forests are almost pure dominated by a single species.Salai (Boswellia serrata) forests occur on plateaux and areas with shallow and poor soils. In these forests, salai forms almost pure crop. The growth of trees is good and forms a dense cover. Kardhai (Anogeissus pendula) forests occur on ridges and slopes associated with the poor and rocky soils. The site quality of these forests is good and the forests constitute a dense cover. Khair (Acacia catechu), forests occur on plains, the site generally associated with sandy soils. These forests are open and adjoin habitation.There are some blank areas associated with good growth of grasses. The relocated village sites are also being transformed into good pasture lands.

CHEETAH REINTRODUCTION PROJECT

The current carrying capacity of the Sanctuary area is close to 27 cheetahs which is likely to increase with time. However, the size of the Kuno Sanctuary area is only 346.68 km², but the size of the forested habitat is over 6830 km² extending from Kailadevi part of Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. The state Govt. is all setting up to bring African Cheetah into the park, as uncertainty hovering over this issue, it wouldn’t be easy say something in advance. Wildlife experts from WII Dehradun visited the Kuno forest along with other 5 locations in India for Cheetah re-introduction and found Kuno national park as most suitable for Cheetah adaptability. Here density of Cheetah's primary prey Black buck & Chinkara is healty which is a good sign. If everything will go as per plan, very soon Cheetah will be re-introduced in to India since long time. It is said that last Asiatic Cheetahs of India was shot by Maharaja in Sarguja District of Chattisgarh State in the year 1947, where as last lion of Central India was shot in around 1853. Current status of Kuno national park allows up to 20 Cheetahs to be accommodated in forest area. New milestone came in this project when on 17-Sept-2022, 8 Namibian Cheetah were released in specially designed Bomas at Kuno national park in Madhya Pradesh. It was all done through a flight journey till Gwalior airport and further air-lifted to Kuno national park. Here they were released in specially designed enclosure to spend there quaranteened period of 2 months. During this period, their movements, diet, adaptibility capabilities, stress level etc will be closely monitored by specail team and noted for records. Once they will be assured of everything going as per plan, Cheetah may be released in phased way to open forest.

WILDLIFE

The area is rich in wildlife. Chital (Axis axis), sambar (Cervus unicolor), and barking deer (Muntiacus muntjak) are the major deer. The antelopes are represented by blue bull (Boselaphus tragocamelus), Chinkara (Gazella gazelle) and blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) vengers. The mixed troops of Hanuman Langur are abundant. Tigers and panthers are found in the area. In 2001 census, 5 tigers and 14 panthers have been reported. Wild dogs are also found in the area with a pack of usually 5 to10. Expecting tiger sighting in Kuno Palpur forest area is something more than what you deserve to see.
Among reptiles, common Indian monitor, lizards, chameleon, snakes, etc. are reported to occur in sufficient numbers. Among snakes, python, cobra, king cobra, vipers, kraits, etc. are reported to occur. Different kinds of fish and other aquatic fauna occur in the Kuno River.
Avifauna in the area is rich with a sizable number of migratory birds. Commonly seen birds include baya, babblers, black drongo, lapwing, egrets, treepie, sarus crane, bulbuls, bluejay, herons, crow pheasant, vultures, kites, jungle fowl, jungle crow, myna, cuckoo, hawks, wood peckers, parakeets, eagles, etc. great Indian bustard was also seen in this sanctuary from 1990 to 1996. Migratory birds like, lesser florican also visit the sanctuary area.

LION INTRODUCTION PROJECT

Indiscriminate destruction of wildlife habitat, shrinkage in the forest and over-hunting of wild animals in the past decades have posed a threat and led to the extinction to a number of wild animals including the Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica). Unfortunately, the surviving population of the highly endangered carnivore has come down to about 300, that too confined only in the wilderness of the Gir National Park and its adjoing Gir WLS in Gujarat.
Realizing the necessity and urgency to provide this population an alternate home, Government of India started exploring the various protected areas to find out the probable site for a second home for the lion. Out of several intensively and systematically surveyed protected areas, the habitat of the Kuno-Palpur sanctuary was adjudged the best site for establishment of an alternate home for the Asiatic Lion.
Although successful re-introduction of large herbivores like the Arabian Oryx in Oman and the one horned rhinoceros in Dudhwa NP (India) have been carried out in the past, there are no records to suggest a similar scientifically and systematically attempted re-introduction of a large carnivore anywhere in the world. And hence, this project is pioneering and hopefully trailblazing. There is also an attempt to device a holistic rehabilitation and eco-development plan for the human population to be affected by the project. The proposed project was of 20 years (1995 to 2015) with three phases as under:
Phase I (1995-2000 AD): Pre-translocation phase.
Phase II (2000-2005 AD): Translocation and population build up phase.
Phase III (2006-2015 AD): Follow up and consolidation phase.
But due to objection raised by Gujarat State Government, it get delayed or one can say "postponed". But now recent decision of Hon'ble Supreme Court of India stating “No state can claim the right over an animal merely because the animal is housed in a particular state. It does not become the property of that state, it belongs to the country,” by a Forest Bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and C K Prasad clears the one major hurdle for this mighty project. Gujarat state government is claiming Gir lions as their property and not willingly to provide them for relocation.
The Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica) is today considered to be one of the most endangered carnivores in the world on the basis of not only low numbers but the fact that the only surviving wild population is enclaved in a single habitat subject to all the uncertainties of natural as well man made stochastic events, with very high extinction potential. Such a situation is akin to the fate of animals on islands, with several records of extinction like that of the Dodo, the Bali tigers and the Hawaiian Goose.
In India, the most famous case of the extinction of the Cheetah as a result of over-hunting and habitat loss is a grim reminder of the likely fate of lion if timely steps to save the species are not taken. So the urgent need of identification and development of a suitable wilderness area wherein a viable number of animals from the Gir population could be reintroduced cannot be overemphasized. Fortunately, the immediacy of the situation has not been lost sight of and the WII, Dehradun carried out a systematic survey of potential sites for re-introduction of Asiatic Lions and then recommended development of Kuno national park as suitable site for Lion re-introduction. The WII, Dehradun suggested that complete acceptance of the project by the project central and the concerned State Government of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Human related information need to be collected for devising of eco-development plans. Effective education campaigns on the proposed project need to be launched. The state government should place and train a special team of forest personnel with duties to implement the project. Habitat development activities need to be taken with special emphasis on prey base and water availability. WII, Dehradun suggested that once habitat at Kuno national park is adequately developed, then 5 to 8 adult lions (2-3 males and 3-5 females) and their dependent young ones from one pride be Tran located during the cold season. Proper arrangement for acclimatization of the lion group to new surrounding before this lion population may be from with animals captured from time to time at the fringes of Gir as a population management requirement. With natural population increase, it may be realistic to expect a free-ranging population of 30-50 lions to be established in the first ten years of initial release at Kuno national park.
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CLIMATE & WEATHER

The Kuno national park is located in the Vindhyan hills adjoining Rajasthan. The sanctuary is drained by a number of streams which join the river Kuno, which almost bisects the sanctuary. The major stream like, Kerkhoh, Lankakhoh, Durredi and Bandia on the left bank and Basantpura, Khajuri and Patrond on the right bank of Kuno criss-cross the tract. The river Kuno is the life-line and the main source of water in the sanctuary. Most of the other streams do not retain water in the summer. Therefore, upper reaches on both sides of the Kuno river suffer from water scarcity during the summer.Content coming soon....

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