By Ankita Garg
With a planning to attract national and international tourists to Kuno National Park, the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department is all set to start Cheetah Safari from February onwards. Tourist will now be allowed to watch cheetah translocated from Namibia to MP’s Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary has planned to release all eight cheetahs in 500 hectare of enclosure by the end of January 2023. Officials claimed that all spotted cats are healthy and they are killing prey independently.
Forest Department is also training Sahariya tribal families for home stay under its cheetah tourism development plan. They are being trained to maintain hygiene and cook food for foreigners. Their houses are being repaired. National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) and Ecotourism Board has jointly selected ten Sehariya houses for the training out of that four families are completely trained. Remaining six families are being trained, officials told.
Forest officials said that rules for cheetah safari will be similar to that of a tiger safari and tourists will be asked to go for online booking. There will be two shifts, morning and evening safaris. There are three zones in Kuno, including Tiktoli, Pila-Wavadi and Ahera. Cheetahs are enclosed in Tiktoli zone. However, Tiktoli zone is closed for tourism for last season in order to secure the cat. As track and roads are old in the zone, officials have started repairing work. All the three zones have 180 km of track while Tiktoli zone has 80 km of track.
Talking to ‘The Hitavada’ District Forest Officer Prakash Verma said, “We have no final order to start cheetah tourism but preparations are being done. A total of 60 guides are being trained for English language.” He further informed that normally, cheetah forms territory in 50 to 100 sqkm of area so preparation are being held accordingly. He said this is world’s first intercontinental translocation for tourism development.
Cheetahs were brought to Kuno from Namibia during September 2022. There are five male and three female cats and all are healthy. All cats are shifted to the enclosure were they are killing prey independently.
DFO Verma further added, “no doubt number of tourists has increased in Kuno. Earlier, hardly 25 to 30 vehicles were taking entry throughout the year. This year everyday 3 to 4 vehicles are taking entry after cheetahs have been shifted.” He further said that around 30 vehicles were reaching Ahera and Pila-Wavadi zone in a year. Last year total 1,200 vehicles visited Tiktoli gate last year.