We set out on an exhilarating journey into the heart of Central India’s hidden treasure – Kuno National Park located in Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh. In a world brimming with wonders, this green oasis deep in the Vindhyan Hills stands as a beacon of nature’s resilience. Imagine stepping into a realm where lush green canopies hide its secrets. Kuno National Park is more than just a wildlife sanctuary; it’s a living storybook, where diverse fauna go about their stuff while the soothing melodies of avifauna wafts through the fresh air.
In this comprehensive guide to Kuno National Park, we unravel the mysteries and unveil the captivating beauty that makes Kuno a nature lover’s paradise. And, as an added thrill, you might catch a glimpse of the unexpected residents – African cheetahs who’ve made Kuno their home, adding an exotic touch to the vibrant tapestry of this magical biodiversity. Join us on an exploration of Kuno’s enchanting landscapes and discover the compelling reasons why this national park is stealing hearts and earning its place among the most beloved natural wonders.
So what makes this jewel sparkle?
Kuno National Park, the Home of Cheetahs in India, the new kid on the block
Wildlife Safari and Photography at Kuno National Park
If you love nature, wildlife and photography, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to visit Kuno wildlife sanctuary in India. This park is home to a variety of animals, including the rare and graceful African cheetahs, which were reintroduced in 2022.
Are you ready for the ride of your life?
We were staying at the Kuno Forest Retreat, luxury tent city, and the entrance gate to the National Park was about 20 odd KMs away. Imagine waking up before dawn during winter, wrapping ourselves in layers and layers of clothes, and hopping on an open safari vehicle! For a good measure we carried some blankets too!
We were not alone. We were accompanied by a skilled naturalist guide who knew the best spots to see the flora and fauna. We were also surrounded by fellow travellers who shared our passion for nature and photography. They were all family, so to say!
As we drove through the misty morning, we feel the cold air biting your skin and the adrenaline pumping in your veins. After about 45 minutes of this bone-chilling journey, we disembarked at the entrance of Ahera Gate of Kuno National Park, however it took us some time before we could pry ourselves out of our seats!
There was a small building where we could have some hot tea around a welcome fire, while the forest officers verified our tickets.
As the sun rises, the landscape transforms before your eyes. The golden light illuminates the trees, the grass, and the mountains. The animals awaken and start their daily routines. You hear their chirps, their sounds, their calls. You feel their presence, their power, their beauty. We feel a rush of excitement as we get ready for an amazing safari on the dusty road, and the freezing cold gives way to a cozy sensation that fills our hearts.
The Flora and Fauna of Kuno National Park: A Biodiversity Hotspot in the Heart of India
One of the most remarkable features of Kuno National Park is its flora. The forest and vegetation of National Park Kuno are unlike any other in Madhya Pradesh and its neighboring regions. They are so beautiful that they have to be witnessed in person. The park has over 800 species of plants, shrubs, climbers, grasses and trees, including many medicinal and aromatic herbs. You can find trees like teak, sal, bamboo, khair, and palash, as well as flowers like jasmine, lilies and many more. The park also has a rich grassland ecosystem that supports many herbivores.
But the flora is not the only attraction of Kuno wildlife sanctuary. The park also boasts a diverse fauna, with over 30 species of mammals, 200 species of birds, and 35 species of reptiles. Some of the rare and endangered animals that live in the park are the Indian wolf, the sloth bear, the striped hyena, the four-horned antelope (Chousingha), and the Indian vulture. You can also spot leopards, jackals, foxes, langurs, deer, antelopes, peacocks, eagles, owls, and many more.
Our agenda was to be able to spot as many wild animals as we could and if possible the leopards. We received information that the forest department had released two cheetah brothers, named Vayu and Agni, (wind and fire) into the safari area (Ahera zone) only the day before. So there was a good possibility of spotting the spotted cheetahs! 😀 😀 😀
As we direct our Safari Vehicle into the heart of the Park, we keep our eyes peeled for any movement in the bushes on both sides of the track. The naturalist had advised us beforehand not to talk but communicate only with hands. After about 20 minutes we spotted a family of deer! Guess what, they were spotted deer (he he he) or Chital as we call them in Hindi.
The birdwatcher in us rejoiced when we saw a lone raptor, perched majestically on the top of a tree and so were a bunch of yellow footed green pigeons occupying another isolated tree, watching us with suspicion and ready to fly which it did upon seeing a huge growling animal on wheels coming towards it.
We saw several members of fauna and flora, including a couple of golden jackals which did not run away, Nilgai (Blue bull, the largest type of antelopes found on this part of the world) hiding behind branches and peacocks too. The forest guide took us to some of the places frequented by the leopards. As per government reports, there is a healthy population of over 90 Indian leopards in this national park. The naturalist said there are over 300 ! Either way, in the absence of Tigers and Lions, the leopards are literally the king of this jungle!
We did not have much luck in finding leopards or cheetahs. As per our driver, this could be because there were a lot of workers repairing the trails and tracks, which may have scared the wild animals into hiding deep into the jungle. We did find a carcass of a large animal though !
However, we were happy to have spent a good 4 hours in the jungle and enjoyed every bit of it.
The History of Kuno National Park: How a Sanctuary Became a Home for Cheetahs
From Sanctuary to Cheetah Story: Kuno National Park’s Enchanting Tale
The cheetah, once widespread across India, faced a decline due to rampant capture for bounty, and sport hunting, coupled with habitat conversion and prey base decline. Historical records, such as those from Mughal Emperor Akbar’s era, highlight the significant population decline. By the mid-20th century, the cheetah had vanished from the wild, with the last sightings in 1948 and sporadic reports until the mid-1970s.
The Indian government recognized the cheetah’s precarious situation in 1952, emphasizing protection in central India. Early conservation attempts, including discussions about importing African cheetahs, unfolded in the 1950s and 1970s. Negotiations with Iran for Asiatic cheetahs and the enactment of the Wildlife (Protection) Act in 1972 marked pivotal moments in conservation efforts. The establishment of Protected Areas, stringent wildlife legislation, and increased conservation awareness addressed the original causes for cheetah extinction.
Kuno National Park emerges as a key player in cheetah conservation, with past proposals to reintroduce the species. The shift in India’s conservation ethos signifies hope for the cheetah’s return. As discussions around Kuno National Park gained momentum, the prospect of reviving the cheetah at Kuno enhanced.
Kuno’s story began in 1981, designated as a wildlife sanctuary to protect vulnerable chinkara deer. It is part of the Khathiar-Gir dry deciduous forests eco region and derives its name from the Kuno River that flows through it. Over the years, it blossomed into a tapestry of wetlands, and rocky outcrops including dry deciduous forests, teeming with life. From majestic leopards surveying their domain to graceful chital deer leaping through the grasslands, Kuno became a refuge for hundreds of bird and animal species.
The park was initially earmarked for its efforts to reintroduce the Asiatic lion from Gir forest, which did not workout.
In 2009, Kuno Palpur Sanctuary was promoted to the stature of National Park and emerged as a hope for the replacement of the Asiatic cheetah, declared extinct in India decades ago. Years of meticulous research and habitat evaluation culminated in a historic decision – Kuno would be the chosen land for the cheetah’s grand homecoming. The park underwent a meticulous makeover, with prey populations like chital deer and Neelgai or Nilgai being carefully built up and anti-poaching measures strengthened.
Then, in September 2022, the moment arrived. Eight graceful Namibian cheetahs, landed on a special flight and took their first tentative steps on Indian soil. The air crackled with anticipation as these magnificent creatures explored their new home. Kuno, the sanctuary that cradled biodiversity, had become a symbol of hope, a testament to India’s unwavering commitment to conservation.
These and other Cheetahs which arrived later are radio collared and are in quarantine boma or soft release acclimatization boma surrounded by an electrified fence
Acclimatization have not been easy. As on date only two cheetahs have been released into the safari zone. This is not a easy project with cheetahs vying for territory with existing leopards. It is believed, as per the government published annual report on this project, that eventually things will work out. Hope it won’t be too long before we can delve into the heart of the park on a jeep safari, spotting leopards basking on rocky outcrops!
Also Read: Discover the Amazing Animals of Mauritius – From Endangered Birds to Giant Tortoises! Click here “Wildlife in Mauritius“ 😊
The Conservation and Challenges of Kuno National Park: How the Park Balances Human and Animal Interests
As per Project documents, there are enormous efforts at conservation with its share of challenges.
- Kuno National Park’s Ecological Significance: Kuno wildlife sanctuary stands as a crucial sanctuary for biodiversity, fostering a delicate balance between various ecosystems. Its diverse flora and fauna, plays a pivotal role in preserving India’s rich natural heritage.
- Human-Wildlife Coexistence Initiatives: One of the key challenges faced by National Park Kuno is managing the interface between humans and wildlife. Innovative coexistence initiatives, such as community-based conservation programs and responsible tourism, are being implemented to mitigate conflicts and promote harmony between local communities and the park’s wildlife.
- Challenges in African Cheetah introduction: Kuno National Park has been the focus of efforts to introduce the cheetahs, providing an alternative habitat to the endangered species. However, this is work in progress and the process comes with its set of challenges, including habitat restoration and ensuring the safety of both wildlife and neighboring human settlements.
- Health and sickness: As per government sources, 6 of the 20 cheetahs imported have died due to various reasons including diseases and violence. In addition 3 of the 4 cubs which were born here on Indian soil also died. The authorities are building a vet hospital so that the sick animals need not travel long distances. It just shows the enormity of the challenges at hand.
- Conservation Technology Integration: To address modern conservation challenges, Kuno National Park is integrating cutting-edge technologies like radio collars of cheetah, satellite monitoring and data analytics. These tools aid in tracking animal movements, habitat changes, and human activities, contributing to more effective conservation strategies.
- Sustainable Tourism Practices: Balancing human interests with wildlife conservation requires sustainable tourism practices. Kuno National Park is implementing eco-friendly tourism initiatives, ensuring that visitors can experience the park’s natural beauty while minimizing their ecological footprint.
While here, we can do our bit by choosing responsible tourism practices, minimizing your impact on the park’s delicate ecosystem. Volunteer your time and skills with organizations working on cheetah conservation in India. Donate to the Cheetah Conservation Fund or other reputable organizations supporting Kuno’s conservation efforts. Spread awareness about the importance of cheetah conservation and Kuno National Park on social media and other platforms. Remember, even small actions can make a big difference in the fight for cheetah survival.
The Festivals and Events around Kuno National Park
We were invited by Madhya Pradesh tourism to participate in their very first edition of Kuno Forest Festival. This would eventually be an annual affair to promote tourism in this region, especially now cheetahs are expected to roam around in the vicinity. The Kuno Forest Festival 2023 edition was a product of MP Tourism in collaboration with Evoke Experiences, an expert in glamping in other parts of India.
The 5-days Kuno Forest Festival was a unique event that celebrates the rich culture and wildlife of Madhya Pradesh, especially the National Park, which is the home of cheetahs in India.
It offers a variety of exciting activities and cultural programs for tourists of all ages and interests. You can enjoy thrilling air, water and land adventure sports, jungle safari, guided walks, local art and music, and much more.
The highlight of the festival is the celebration of introduction of cheetahs to India, which is a historic achievement for the conservation of this endangered species. You can witness the majestic cheetahs roaming freely in their natural habitat, once all of them are released to the safari area and learn more about their ecology and behavior. You can also explore the ancient forts and structures that dot the landscape of Kuno National Park, and discover the stories and legends of this land.
To make the experience more comfortable, one may stay at the Kuno Forest Retreat a glamping resort in the vicinity of Kuno National Park. The resort offers spacious luxury cottages with private balconies, while taking part in many activities, like hot air balloons, moto-para sailing, star gazing, cooking and enjoying the cultural programs. You cannot miss wildlife safaris or hikes.
Useful Information on National Park Kuno, Madhya Pradesh
Tips and Tidbits about Kuno National Park
- The Kuno National Park is named so because of the Kuno river that runs through the park.
- Explore the captivating Pahargarh cave paintings, a treasure trove of ancient artistry, as you immerse yourself in the rich heritage of India, featuring intricate rock art, historical narratives, and a unique cultural legacy.
- Let us look at the best ways to Plan, Prepare, and Enjoy Your Visit to the Park. For a comprehensive list of Dos and Don’ts in Safari, click on the link.
- Timings : Morning – 6:00 AM to 11:30AM , Evening – 3:00 PM to 6:00PM . It is always a great idea to confirm with safari office for the timings. Phone Numbers – +91 7530220004, +91 9424791938, +91 9907216080
- Safari prices: The policies and prices have not yet stabilized. The entry ticket is INR 750. The safari vehicle owner will charge 2000 or more. As of now it is possible to take your own vehicle too. These prices may change as and when the park is developed more. Please call the above numbers for latest information.
Also Read: Click here for our detailed article on “The rules of the jungle, dos and don’ts”
Things to do around National Park of Kuno
- Explore the captivating Pahargarh cave paintings, a treasure trove of ancient artistry, as you immerse yourself in the rich heritage of India, featuring intricate rock art, historical narratives, and a unique cultural legacy.
- Enjoy a serene night under the stars, away from city lights, making it an ideal spot for stargazing.
- Hike to Devkho, a beautiful temple atop a hill through lush forests.
How to reach Kuno National Park?
By Air: Visitors can take a flight to Gwalior which is the nearest Airport to Kuno NP or to New Delhi which has better connectivity.
The park has three entrance gates, namely, Tiktoli, Ahera, Peepal Bawadi. Kota and Jaipur cities also have airports among which Jaipur has the best connectivity by flights to various parts of India. If you are the adventurous kind, you can drive straight from Delhi.
By Rail: Shivpuri railway station is the closest to Kuno National Park, at around 70 km. Other major railway stations near Kuno are Gwalior, Jhansi, Kota, Jaipur and Sawai Madhopur. In terms of connectivity, Gwalior is the best suited and one can then take cab.
By Road: Sesaipura in the Sheopur district is the nearest village, at a distance of 15 km from the park.
Gwalior to Kuno WLS – The distance is about 150 KM and may take about 3 hours or more of non stop driving.
Delhi to Kuno wild life sanctuary is about 450 KM and may take about 8 hours of continuous driving. Not the best option but then it exists for those who love driving.
Where to stay?
Lodging Options Provided by Park Administration: Kuno National Park offers four rest houses managed by the department. Reservations can be made through the Kuno office via the provided phone numbers or email. The reservation authority for these rest houses is held by the CCF Lion Project and DFO Kuno, Sheopur.
Alternative Accommodations: For visitors seeking alternative options, the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Resort, also known as Jungle Resort Kuno, is conveniently located in close proximity to the park (approximately 18 km from Tiktoli Gate). Tourists can easily secure bookings by contacting M.P. Tourism Kuno Resort (Rest House).
If Glamping is not your thing then, you may consider staying at Sheopur, Shivpuri, or Gwalior.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) about Kuno National Park
What does boma mean?
In eastern and Southern Africa, Boma means an enclosure, especially for animals.
What animals can be found in Kuno National Park?
Kuno NP, situated in Madhya Pradesh, India, is a a biodiversity hotspot and a renowned national park and wildlife sanctuary boasting a diverse array of fauna, including several endangered species. Notable animals in Kuno National Park include:
Cheetahs: In a groundbreaking initiative, this National Park became the first location in India to reintroduce African cheetahs, known as the fastest land animals, in 2022. These cheetahs were imported from Namibia and are closely monitored by authorities12.
Leopards: The park harbors a thriving population of leopards, the most adaptable among the big cats. These nocturnal and elusive creatures exhibit a diverse diet, preying on various animals3.
Wolves: Kuno NP stands out as one of the rare locations in India where Indian wolves can be observed. Living in social and intelligent packs, wolves predominantly hunt herbivores such as deer and antelopes4.
Hyenas: Home to striped hyenas, renowned scavengers of the savanna, Kuno NP provides a habitat for these mostly nocturnal and solitary creatures. Hyenas primarily feed on carrion and remnants left by other predators4.
Deer and Antelopes: The park boasts a rich diversity of herbivores, including spotted deer, sambar, nilgai, blackbuck, and chinkara. These animals serve as the primary prey base for carnivores, playing a crucial role in maintaining the grassland ecosystem4.
Other Fauna: This National Park also hosts various other animals such as langur monkeys, golden jackals, foxes, jungle cats, wild boars, porcupines, hares, and mongooses. Additionally, the park is home to a diverse range of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects
What is the best time to visit Kuno National Park?
Kuno National Park is open to tourists throughout the year except for the monsoon period (1st July to 15th October). However, according to its vegetation and geographical conditions the best time to visit Kuno is October to March, for pleasant weather & comfortable stay.
Are there any accommodation options near Kuno National Park?
Yes, there are some accommodation options near Kuno National Park, which is a wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, India. Some of the properties you can stay at are:
Hotel Jai shri Palace, a budget hotel located about 18 km from the park entrance.
Radhika Vilas -A Heritage Resort, a heritage property that offers a glimpse of the royal past of Sheopur district.
Kuno Forest Retreat, a luxury resort that is nestled within the park and provides a unique experience of witnessing the cheetah population. We stayed at this glamping (glamourous camping) site, in one of their luxury tents. It is about 12 KM from Tiktoli gate, once it opens for public.
Are there guided tours available in the park?
In Kuno National Park, private vehicles are also allowed besides the official safari rides for sighting of animals. There is a forest permit fee per gypsy or vehicle and additional charges are applicable for hiring a guide. The recommended speed for driving within the park is 20km/hr.
What is the meaning of national park? What is the difference between National park and wildlife sanctuary?
A national park is an area set aside by a national government to preserve the natural environment. A national park may be set aside for purposes of public recreation and enjoyment or because of its historical or scientific interest. Most of the landscapes and their accompanying plants and animals in a national park are kept in their natural state.
A wildlife sanctuary is an area of nature owned by the government or a private agency for the protection of particular species of flora or fauna.
The main difference between a national park and a wildlife sanctuary is that human activities are allowed to a limited extent in a wildlife sanctuary, but are strictly prohibited in a national park. National parks are also much larger than wild life sanctuaries.
National parks and wildlife sanctuaries are both important for the conservation of biodiversity and the protection of endangered species. They also provide ecological, economic, and social benefits to the people and the planet.
Some of the examples of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India are:
Bandipur National Park in Karnataka
Indian Bustard Sanctuary in Maharashtra
Kaziranga National Park in Assam
Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve in Tamil Nadu
Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan
Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand
Kuno, Kanha, Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh
and many more.
कूनो नेशनल पार्क me kitne cheetah hain? How many cheetahs are there in National Park Kuno?
In the first installment 8 Namibian cheetahs were brought here on a special flight. Later another 12 were brought in making a total of 20. 4 cubs were born in captivity. out of the 24 7 adults and 3 cubs have died since then. So a total of 13 adults and 1 cub are alive in Kuno wildlife sanctuary.
What flora can be found in Kuno National Park?
A extensive variety of Grasses and Herbs, Shrubs, Trees, Aquatic Plants, flowering plants and medicinal plants are found here.
Kuno wildlife sanctuary is in which state?
Kuno National Park is located the state of Madhya Pradesh, India
How many cheetahs brought from Namibia?
In the first installment 8 Namibian cheetahs were brought here on a special flight. They were accompanied by enough work force, naturalists, forest department officers and doctors to ensure their well being during the flight. Later another 12 were brought in making a total of 20.
How many cheetah died in India?
A total 6 of the original have died due to sickness, acclimatization issues etc. 4 Cubs were also born on Indian soil, out of those 3 cubs have died. So a total of 9 cheetahs have died. As I write this article , news of another cheetah name Shourya has died. Making it 10.
How far is Agra from Kuno National Park?
The distance between Agra and Kuno National is approximately 200 kilometers (124 miles) by road. As per my estimate it would take anywhere between 3.5 to 4 hours, not adding stoppage times.
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