Madhya Pradesh can expect a big jump in wildlife tourism, as Palpur Kuno, set to get lions from Gir, would be the only habitat in the world to have three big cats, the lion, the tiger and the panther in one habitat.
Lion tourism attracts a sizeable number of visitors in Gujarat. This was the principal reason for Gujarat refusing to let the lions go to MP, a move which would make Gujarat lose its unique position of being the only state in the country to have Asiatic lions.
Also, Palpur Kuno is geographically located very close to the renowned Ranthambhor tiger reserve in Rajasthan that attracts sizable foreign and domestic tourists.
Kuno Palpur is about 100 km from Ranthambhor and tourists that visit Ranthambhor could also add Palpur Kuno in their itinerary.
The habitat comprises of dry deciduous shrub vegetation. The most common trees are kardhai and saalai. Being dry in nature, the area offers very good visibility of wildlife.
A total of 24 villages have been relocated from the reserve and the former agricultural fields of the village have developed in grasslands that are ideal habitat for game.
The sanctuary has registered the presence of tigers that have returned to the area in the last few years. Panthers are also found in the reserve.
Restrictions imposed on number of tourists at the prominent tiger reserves of the state like Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench could also be an advantage for Palpur Kuno.
Presently, Palpur Kuno has very basic tourist amenities and hardly any tourist traffic. The sanctuary has a forest rest house located on the banks of the river Kuno and the closes hotels are at Shivpuri and Sheopur.
"We will examine all future prospects and plan to strengthen our presence in the area," said managing director, MP state tourism development corporation, Raghwendra Kumar Singh.
"I am aware of a few hotel and lodge owners who were looking to set up shop in Palpur Kuno. However, no one was sure whether the lion project would eventually be executed. Now that it has happened, I anticipate a big rush for Palpur Kuno," said former MLA and treasurer of the eco-tourism society of India (ESOI).
From the management and protection point of view, the Palpur Kuno sanctuary would present a fresh set of challenges to the forest department. One of the key reasons cited by Gujarat in the SC in not wanting to part with the lions is the poor protection record in Madhya Pradesh.
"All arrangements required to accommodate the lions once they are here are in place," said CCF, lion project, Sudhir Kumar.