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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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