• Palpur Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary
For the King´s Return Palpur Kuno in Crowning Glory
by   Raja Chatterjee
Cascading appearances of Sambhar, Chowsinga, Black buck, Spotted deer, Barking deer, Wild boar, Langur and Rhesus monkey transformed the outings as memorable ones. We paused at every excuse to behold the awesome beauty of these canyons while negotiating the high ridges en-route. We unravelled this nature's marvel by walking long lengths. This effort enabled us to spot some of the rare and most interesting species of birds like ---

Painted Francolin, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Crested Serpent Eagle, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Common Kestrel, Shikra, Dusky Eagle Owl, Large Cuckoo Shrike and Racket Tailed Drongo.
Palpur Kuno is predominantly a tropical dry deciduous forest. Kardhai ( Anogiessus Pendula) forest found at the sand stone portions is among the finest and richest in the country. The alluvial portions carry good miscellaneous forest. Natural meadows with a palatable variety of grasses are important part of the habitat. Kardhai, khair, raunja, salai. Dhawda, Gurjan, Tendu, Pallas Ber, Gnot, Kasai, Mahua are some of the main and commonly occurring trees.

As we covered a large area of the sanctuary, the accompanying forest ranger Mr. V.S. Parihar showed us various works done on natural habitat conservation. In the centre of the core area, laying of HDPE gravity pipe line from Kerkho to Kembtalai was completed with great success. Initial survey and execution was very difficult but the foresters made it possible working together with expert engineers. After the successful installation of pipe line, field staff learnt welding and jointing technique of HDPE pipe line which helped in proper maintenance of the pipe line. This ensured regular water supply to the saucers, especially during pinch period. The team of young forest guards learnt scientific technique of wildlife monitoring, using compass, G.P.S. and also the census technique using pugmarks.

In the western part of the core area, places like Maratha, Kerkho, Landho, Nimkho are very hilly and patrolling in these areas are difficult and risky due to movements of dacoits. This area used to be frequented by poachers from the tribes of Mogia, Bhis, Saharia. Illegal collection of N.T.P. and grasses also contributed for fire hazards. The main difficulty in camping these areas was dacoits and distance from Palpur camp. Effective patrolling from Palpur is not possible. So these people start camping in open forest area and on the route of trees passer near core boundary. This proved very helpful as the culprits were caught before an offence committed. The methodology helped to identify culprits in sensitive areas as well.

While on a morning safari in Lanka Kho area, we found four forest guards in uniform, patrolling on high ridges. We stopped to interact with them. They belonged to the anti poaching squad of Palpur Kuno WLS. They were carrying two guns and two sticks and knives and some materials tucked and tied tightly inside a home spun bath towel, on each one's shoulder. To our serious array of queries about the location of their anti poaching outpost, camp duration, food and related support, their replies came simple. They were out on a weeklong camping (locally called Gasti), to scan the area for dacoits and illegal grazers and had no such squad outpost. They would return to the range office, some 70 kms away, after covering around 300 kms in seven days. The items they carried were flour, salt and potatoes as food for the period. They would make a fire near a stream to make rotis (hand made breads) and roast the potatoes with salt to make their make shift meals, using only suitable portion of rock beds as their utensils. They would either sleep on the tree trunks or on large rock beds, depending on suitability. As we wondered about the extent of exaggeration in their version, we were humbly told that it was the standard practice for dacoits and guards alike, operating in this fearsome frontier of forests.