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Kuno WLS

Last month I was fortunate enough to be able to make a short visit to the Kuno - Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary . It was a day visit arranged by Dharmender Khandal of the NGO Tiger Watch as part of their Conservation Leadership Course which I was attending.

The Kuno - Palpur WLS is located between latitudes 25degree 30second - 25degree 53second N and longitudes 77degree 07second – 77degree 26second E, is situated in the Sheopur district of north-west Madhya Pradesh. The total area is 344.686 sqkm out of which 313.984 sqkm is forest land and 30.702 sqkm is revenue land in the Sheopur and Vijapur tehsils of Sheopur district. The Palpur (Kuno) wildlife sanctuary was notified vide Government of Madhya Pradesh Forest Department’s Notification No. 15/8/79/10/2, Bhopal, dated 16.1.1981.Since then this has been elevated to the Kuno Wildlife Division with an additional area of 900 square kilometres as a buffer area around the Sanctuary.

This sanctuary is situated at Vijaypur and Sheopur tehsils in Sheopur district. It is 15 km. from the Sesaipura bus stand on Shivpuri-Sheopur road. It can be approached by bus or taxi from Sesaipura bus stand. It can also be approached from Pohari of district Shivpuri at the distance of 25 km. It is about 100 km from Sawai Madhopurtown and as a lot of people visit Ranthambore it can easily be included in their iternary. The sanctuary is situated in an isolated hill, sloping in all directions.The average rainfall in the area is 750 mm per year. The maximum temperature can rise up to 49 degree C while the minimum temperature recorded has been 2 degree C.The general physiography of the terrain is hilly. It comes under the Vindhya series. The sanctuary falls in the semi-arid zone and has a typical terrain of Central Indian highlands, interspersed with woodlands and meadows. The soil is sandy and sandy-loam, showing a spatial variation in depth. River kuno, a a tributary of River Chambal, vertically bisects the sanctuary from north to south. It occupies an area of 5.90 sqkm in the sanctuary. A number of major of major nallahs like Lankahkhoh, Kudikheda, Durredi, Aamkhoh originate from the gorges located on the west, join river Kuno. Similarly, the Dabhona nallah, Naharkunda nallah, Gangoli nallah etc. originating from the eastern khohs, meet the Kuno river at various sites.

The Kuno River.

The Palpur Fort overlooking the Kuno River.

The Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary was selected as the reintroduction site for critically endangered Asiatic lion because it is in the former range of the lions before it was hunted into extinction in about 1873.It was selected following stringent international criteria and internationally accepted requirements & guidelines developed by IUCN/SSC Reintroduction Specialist Group[4] and IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group which are followed before any reintroduction attempt anywhere in the world.Currently the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project is underway. The lions are to be reintroduced from Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in the neighboring Indian state of Gujarat where they are currently overpopulated. This has involved the displacement of twenty four villages of the Sahariya tribe, which had lived in the remote core area set aside for the reintroduction of the Asiatic lions, who agreed to move out.

As the state government of Gujarat is refusing to let go of its monopoly of wild Asiatic Lions which are not found elsewhere, for the time being Central Government of India plans to acquire Zoo-bred pure breed Asiatic lions from Hyderabad, Bhopal and Delhi Zoos and soft release their third generation after captive breeding in a large enclosure at Kuno wildlife sanctuary with wild prey. The State Government of Gujarat rejects the idea of Kuno being an alternate habitat for the Asiatic lion and comments that since Kuno Palpur sanctuary has had some tigers, it’s not advisable to shift Gir lions there, as there are bound to be frequent clashes between the two kings over territories and as per them it has been observed that tigers and lions can never co-exist. This statement is challenged by historical records and scientists around the world, Lions and Tigers have shared the same habitat from Persia (Iran) to India all through history before they became extinct by over hunting and habitat conversion to agriculture.

However the MP Govt. seems to have given up on Lion relocation as Kuno will soon become the Asian home of the African Cheetah. The Chief Minister Mr Shivraj Singh Chouhan gave consent in principal for resettlement of African cheetahs in the sanctuary after updating himself through a presentation on the Project Cheetah.The presentation was given by the Wildlife Institute of India and Wildlife Trust of India.Renowned wildlife expert and chairman of Wildlife Trust of India Mr Ranjit Singh gave the detailed presentation on Project Cheetah. He informed that the Cheetah was spotted way back in Madhya Pradesh 62 years ago in 1948. The Asiatic Cheetah survives in Iran, which has a population of about 50 Cheetahs.The African Cheetahs are found in good numbers in Africa at present. As Iran is unwilling to give any of its Cheetahs to India , the African Cheetah will be relocated here .The Government of India has sanctioned Project Cheetah as a result of initiatives of the Wildlife Trust of India.

The pitch has however been queered by the arrival of a transient tiger T - 38 from Ranthambore . The tiger traveled almost 100 km from Ranthambhore and is believed to have used the Chambal river system to reach Kuno .

Pug Mark of T-38 in Kuno.

How the mess will be sorted out is anybody's guess.However the Sanctuary is a beautiful spot to visit if you are looking for a destination that is untouched by tourism.Here are a few photographs to illustrate my point.

Feral cattle also roam the sanctuary, left behind by the relocated Sahariya tribal herders. The cattle were intended to serve as buffer prey for Asiatic Lions until wild prey populations were revived. T - 38 is now reaping the benefits !


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 3rd, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC)
A great example of "Man proposes, Nature wills otherwise"....wonder how things will develop now.
Nov. 19th, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC)
Good introduction but must write some more about sighting of various animals and govt.requirements need to be fulfilled, to make iteasy for wanderers to consider it without much ado.
Nov. 30th, 2011 11:59 am (UTC)
can't we do something in order to re-introduce asian lions as limited area at gir or any disease could turn labours of ages into vain ..........
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


Vikram Nanjappa

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