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For the First Time the Official Tale of Kuno Cheetahs

  Ahead of the first anniversary of the  controvertial cheetah project  and the release of African cheetahs in  Kuno national park ,  interesting observations have been shared by the  director of the park where   14 cheetahs await re-release in the wild. They were caught   and brought back to bomas following 6 cheetah deaths after septicemia caused by abrasion from   satellite collars.   Uttam Kumar Sharma , the park director has dwelt in detail on cheetah movements and their exploration of the landscape , their interaction with each other and the  efforts  made by the  park management to  monitor the  animals  round the clock as he tried to hammer home a point- African cheetahs are adapting fast in India.  Asha: The Hope   Based upon his observations, Sharma has released newsletters   revolving around   two cheetah coalitions -Gaurav-Shaurya (Rockstars) and Agni-Vayu (White walkers), Asha, the female cheetah from Namibia and  Jwala and her Indian born cubs. The story  of the two coali
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Selfie With Leopard

Over fifty people in a village of central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh risked their life as they played around an ailing leopard .The leopard was    spotted in an isolated area of Eklara Mata village, about 70 kms away from the district headquarter of the industrial town  of Dewas on August 29. The spotted cat is suffering from some neurological disorder which may have been caused by rabies of canine distemper virus. Though the villagers did not harm the animal, they were exposed to the animal bite as they fondled the animal, sat around it and tried to even have a ride before taking selfies. Leopard Ride ?  Videos taken by them raise  many serious questions. Who is actually the animal? The people taking selfies and having fun with the  hapless spotted cat as they yelled, whistled, jostled to play and to  shoot videos and images  from mobile phones. But beast that seemed to have lost its animal instinct because of the ailment did not react.  People living around the  forest fringes  n

Drones, Dogs Help Catch Cheetah Nirva In Kuno

Officials in the Union ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFC&C)  and those  involved in cheetah  translocation in Namibia and  South Africa heaved a huge sigh of relief after Nirva, the female cheetah  missing since July 21 was captured in Kuno national park . But the operation to capture Nirva was a huge exercise and, perhaps, has no parallel in the history of wildlife conservation in India.  Spreading over 150 hours stretched in 22 days, more than 100 forest department personnel, looked out for a cheetah in a rain drenched jungle. Day in , day out ,they walked on foot, rode elephants, flew drones and deployed dogs in search of the cheetah.  Hard work and perseverance paid off and Nirva was caught and captured. “Nirva is healthy and has been kept inside boma for further health check-up”, said Aseem Shrivastava, the chief wildlife warden of Madhya Pradesh.  Nirva in Kuno was Like Needle in Haystack Operation Nirva began in the backdrop of  three cheetah death- T

Tiger Parts Seizure in Assam Shows Unprotected Areas Are Poachers' Paradise

Recent seizure of bones and skin of a tiger in Assam leading to arrest of poachers and a  tiger part trader ,former employee of the Wildlife wing  of Delhi forest department ,should be a wake up call for the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) . Body parts of the tiger  from Chandrapur -Gadchiroli districts in Maharashtra were confiscated   more than 2000 kms away in Assam in the last week of June. Poachers killed the tiger outside protected area of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve ( TATR ) , skinned it and  placed the bones in a sack. Almost 40% of  India's tigers – more than 1000-live outside the protected area and the region where the Maharashtra tiger was killed is considered as a conflict zone with large cases of man tiger conflict. People here just hate tigers. Hunted and Hounded, The Tiger Runs for Life This episode, an eye opener for the investigating agencies, has all the elements which pose serious threat   to the survival of the tiger and also a major challenge to t

Another Cheetah Dies in Kuno as African Experts Plea the Sc for Transparency in the Project

  While reporting for  television and the print media during a long period of over three decades , I noticed a tendency of Indian bureaucracy - most of the bureaucrats in India seem to have trained themselves for hiding information. There is also lack of transparency especially while dealing with the community outside their sphere. International experts in cheetah translocation project  in Kuno national park are also experiencing the same issue. During the recent cheetah deaths, especially after July 11 when a male cat died, the first from alleged  satellite tracking -collar abrasion, it was revealed that the African experts were  begging for information from India officials .There was a delay of more than 24 precious hours when some details, not all, reached the African experts as Indian authorities  made "assumptions"  over  the injury  caused  to  Tejas, the male cheetah by a female. He later died. He was followed by Suraj but the reason was the same, deterioration of the

Tiger Reserves In Waiting : Tale of Mhadei and Ratapani Sanctuaries

   On July 24, the Goa bench of Bombay High Court took the help of an ancient Indian epic Mahabharata to explain  the state government the importance of  the tiger . “If there is no forest, then the tiger gets killed; if there is no tiger, then the forest gets destroyed. Hence, the tiger protects the forest, and the forest guards the tiger!” The court cited the epic  while directing the government to notify the 208 sq. km Mhadei wildlife sanctuary and its surrounding areas as a tiger reserve, and issue a notification within three months.  But the state government of this popular tourist destination has decided to challenge it in the Supreme Court. Over 1200 kms away from Goa, Ratapani sanctuary  in Madhya Pradesh has been awaiting  tiger reserve status for the last one and half decade.  In 2022, six tigers were recorded in Goa, an important tiger corridor in the Western Ghats where the big cat numbers are on decline. Against the six tigers in Goa, there are more than 45 in Ratapani, a

Bringing African Cheetahs to India a Wrong Decision ?

 India’s cheetah project has derailed as it faces an unprecedented crisis, not  even anticipated  by the cheetah managers- neither from Africa nor India. Though the project- wrapped in secrecy-  envisioned a high mortality of cheetah , the present cause of deaths did not find any mention in the Cheetah Action Plan. There are more issues including  politics, bureaucratic hurdles and red tapism  responsible for the present predicament and none of them have any link with wildlife and environment. Amidst all this,  officials and experts are trying hard to get the project back on tracks. Conservation Project or Political Minefield ? Outbursts of an eminent South African veterinarian will explain his frustration and the present state of affairs in   managing the cheetahs in Kuno national park. Dr Adrian Tordiffe who is an eminent veterinarian from South Africa and is one of the five consulting panelists of international Cheetah experts for advice -as and when required. But, it seems, Tordiff

Plans Begin To Capture All Cheetahs To Remove Collars Amidst MoEFC&C Denial

     In a huge embarrassment to   senior  members of  the Steering Committee for Cheetah project and  international experts including Laurie Marker of Cheetah Conservation Fund(CCF), one of the biggest   names in cheetah conservation in the world, the Union ministry of Environment forest and climate change (MoEFC&C)  denied cheetah deaths due to collar wounds in Kuno national park . On Saturday- July 15 – Namibia based Laurie Marker and steering committee members including its head Dr Rajesh Gopal had confirmed the deaths due to collar wounds.  Despite Dnial, Preps On To Cpture Cheetahs The MoEFC&C denial was issued when the officials were preparing to capture cheetahs to remove their collars   to prevent further casualties.Rattled by the 5 cheetah deaths including the two back to back  losses in the last three days, the MoEFC&C  issued a three page press release on Sunday afternoon. It said, “As per the preliminary analysis by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA),

Not Leopards, A Different 'Predator' is Killing Kuno Cheetahs

  When the cheetah project was planned ,   the presence of a large number of leopards  in Kuno national park was  considered as the biggest threat to the  smaller spotted cats. But an altogether 'new predator'- unknown and unheard of- is stalking the African cheetahs in Kuno killing two cheetahs. Namibia to South Africa to Delhi, cheetah managers have expressed grave concern. It is a 400  gram satellite collar killing the cheetahs. The collars were placed around their neck to keep a track of the cheetahs translocated from the two African countries. African experts have recommended close monitoring of the cheetahs still in the enclosures in Kuno and replace them with  better collars.  Collars Inflict Wounds Two cheetahs- first Tejas in an enclosure and then Suraj   in the open forest- died. Injuries over their neck were the common factor in both the cases.  After initial confusion over the injuries, experts realized the death was caused by septicemia resulting from the radio col

Back to Back Cheetah Deaths in Kuno: South African Expert Unhappy Over Communication Gap

 Close on the heels of the death of Tejas, the male cheetah, another cheetah died in Kuno national park on Friday  ( July 14) .  This is the first cheetah casualty in the open forest of Kuno where Suraj , the sub- adult who died , was released on June 25. Suraj’s body carried injury marks, perhaps, the result of a fight with some carnivore. The male cheetah died two days after Tejas whose body was found in his enclosure. Besides, 3 cheetah cubs born in captivity had also died taking the cheetah  death toll to 8. Back to back cheetah deaths seem to have ratteled the officials in Delhi leading to lack of communication  between them and  their counterparts in South African resulting into non-participation of an important  South African member of Cheetah Project Steering Committee in an important meeting on July 14.        First Death In Open Forest Though high mortality of cheetahs are expected in the project, eight deaths in a span of about 4 months have become a cause of concern for tho