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Behind the Cheetah Success Story Lie Sweat and Sacrifice, Heroes of the Project Did Not Take A Day Off, Missed All Family Occasions

To make the Cheetah Project successful, many officers and staffs of Kuno National Park didn’t visit their families despite having several problems at home They celebrated all festivals in the Park and even worked on holidays Recognising their work, the Madhya Pradesh government has felicitated them with this year’s state Wildlife Award
Indian Masterminds Stories

It wasn’t an easy task to bring cheetahs to Kuno National Park, but, once they arrived, a more difficult task lay ahead for the Park officials, to get the big cats acclimatised to their new environment. It has involved a lot of hard work, long hours, staying away from family, and skipping holidays. Many officers and staffs didn’t visit their families despite having personal problems at home. So, it would not be wrong to say that it’s the sweat and sacrifice of the forest officers and staffs of Kuno National Park that are behind the successful rolling of the Cheetah Project.

Indian Masterminds spoke with the officers and staffs of Kuno National Park to know about the massive task before them and the hectic work they are putting in to ensure that the Cheetah project becomes a huge success.

CHEETAH PROJECT

IFS Officer P K Verma, who is the DFO of Kuno National Park, said that the cheetah project is one of the most important projects of wildlife conservation. When cheetah disappeared from India, several attempts were made to bring the animal back to the nation. During these attempts, many places in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh were considered to keep the cheetahs. Since, historically, cheetahs were earlier found in Kuno and in nearby areas, so finally Kuno National Park was selected as home for the African cheetahs that were to be brought to India.

“Not only this, but Kuno National Park was also found suitable for the cheetahs due to its climatic condition and vegetation. The topography is the same, the grassland is the same, like the Savannah in Africa. The same base has been prepared, as cheetahs get in Africa and which is very suitable for them. Animals like sambar, chital were settled in the forest, so that the cheetahs have a food base. Except for one, all the villages have been relocated from there,” Mr. Verma said.

CHALLENGES

As soon as it was decided that Kuno National Park will be the home to the cheetahs, all the works and projects were started to decide what all things are needed to be done. Soon after Kuno was selected, the rainy season came and so it was challenging for the forest staffs and officers to work.

Mr. Verma said that it was something totally new for them and to compound it, many a times, there was a sudden change in some plans, which made it more challenging for them. Further, a day before the Prime Minster’s visit to the Park, it was raining, and it became a challenging task for them to look after all the arrangements.

“There is no pucca roads in National Parks. Because animals have to walk on the roads, we cannot make cemented road. Hence, during the rainy season, it becomes challenging to unload heavy things. We were preparing the Park for the cheetahs’ arrival from July 2021 and were working continuously for it. None of our team members took any leave even for their personal works. Everybody worked day and night to make this project a successful one,” Mr. Verma told Indian Masterminds.

MOTHER WAS ILL: DFO P K VERMA

Mr. Verma, too, couldn’t visit his home during that time as he had to be on the field along with his colleagues and staffs.  “My mother was not well and was admitted in a hospital in Indore, but I couldn’t go and meet her. Also, we celebrated all the festivals from Dusshera to Diwali here in Kuno itself with our staffs, he said. 

He still hasn’t visited his home yet and is planning to go when there is a wedding in the family. He informed that even the Chief Conservator of Forest, IFS officer Uttam Kumar Sharma, told his family that if his entire staff is working in the Park during the festivals, then he will also celebrate the festivals at Kuno only. Likewise, even the veterinary Doctor of Kuno National Park, Mr. Onkar Anchal’s mother wasn’t doing well, but he couldn’t go to meet her.

“Since the cheetahs were to be released in the bigger enclosure, so all staff were working on the day of Diwali as well. We engaged the field staffs and chokidars who live in the camp and celebrated Diwali together in the midst of work, he said.

POSTPONED WEDDING: ACF AMRITANSHU SINGH

ACF Amritanshu Singh of Kuno National Park even postponed his wedding by a year as he was not getting time off from his work. Mr. Verma informed that Mr. Singh decided not to leave the project midway for his wedding rites. He had even fallen sick, but still didn’t go home and just took medicines on the advice of the veterinary doctor.

COULDN’T ATTEND WIFE’S DELIVERY: ALOK SINGH GAUR

Forest guard Alok Singh Gaur shared with Indian Masterminds that his wife was to deliver in the month of August and he was getting repeated calls from home to be there by her side. However, he decided not to go. He said, “Here, the Cheetahs were expected to arrive on 15 August. In such a situation, there was much preparations to be done, so I couldn’t manage to be with my wife during her delivery.”

COULDN’T GO FOR FATHERS OPERATION: YASH BANDHU

Similarly, Range Officer Yash Bandhu couldn’t go for his father’s gall bladder stone operation. “The operation took place on 23 September, when it was a sensitive period for the Cheetah project. My wife is also pregnant. I could not go to see them. When PM sir was on tour, my wife was ill and was hospitalised. Just 15 days ago, my sister delivered a baby, but I could not go. Electrification work had to be done to release the cheetah in the big enclosure and the work had to be done quickly, so we ourselves did the insulation work in the enclosures,” he said.

Recognising the tireless work of the officers and staffs, the state government has appreciated the entire team of Kuno National Park and has felicitated everyone – from the DFO to the chokidar – with this year’s State Wildlife Award.


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