India’s Kuno national park set to expand for more cheetahs

Kuno Palpur (MP, India): The Indian government’s positive initiative to reintroduce the cheetah in the Indian subcontinent is a mixed bag of success and failure. After death of 2 cheetah recently, there have been reports of new births, expanding the population of cheetahs in Kuno and rekindling the hope of the govt.

Encouraged by initial success and the habitual straying of the wild cheetahs, the government of MP may be forced to acquire more land and rehabilitate more villages where cheetahs have been moving. This is because the Cheetah thrives in grasslands and fields more than it does so in dense jungles.

This is exactly what one un named forest officer thinks. “Because the cheetah loves to move and hunt in the open savannahs, the fields around Kuno National Park are the perfect setting for them to explore” he said. “we have been chasing them (the Cheetahs) across villages and bringing them back often, but this is not a long term solution”

The long term solution lies in acquiring more village land, especially shrubby trees, ravine sidelands and grass fields that currently are tilled by the local villagers. Villages like Madkheda, Jakhnod, Amai, Amarpura and nearby areas are possible sites where these grasslands are located.

It is yet to be confirmed whether they will be acquired by the authorities but according to forest department workers they are ideal areas to help expand on the Cheetah territories. “With rocky terrain more suited to the leopards, cheetahs thrive more in the grasslands and they like moving east of the Shahbad Kuno river” exclaimed Avdhesh, a tribal who has been employed for gate duty at Tiktoli gate. Although he was not sure if there is any order to acquire the land.

There is also talk of land being acquired in Bagcha village to the west and some land may also be acquired in Pahadi and Bargawan area to allow for animal movement. This land may be connected to the forested patch further west towards Pehla.

Most people in the area seem prepared and feel that there will be need for a larger area to go under forest and they would welcome the change. “what do we produce here… the land is not that fertile anyways, it will be better if we can get compensation for it and move to better opportunity” says Nathu adivasi of a nearby village.

Whether the Indian and Madhya Pradesh govt. will move to expand is not a question of if but when. This is good news for conservationists and wildlife lovers.

With inputs from Sadanand Saha and Rupak Menon from Shivpuri.

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