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Prep Before Cheetahs Become Free Ranging In Kuno National Park

  When another male cheetah, Obaan,joined the two rock stars – Freddie and Elton -- in yet another bigger enclosure of Kuno national park on November 18, only five female cheetahs remained in smaller bomas in the park where they were released on September 17. Like the three males, the five female spotted cats will also be released soon in larger bomas to run and chase their prey to kill. India’s  wildlife authorities accompanied by the experts from the cheetah conservation fund (CCF) from Namibia   have been taking utmost care and caution  before the  cheetahs in Kuno are ultimately made “free -ranging” meaning released in open to move around the entire length and breadth of the park. “Free ranging cheetahs and their monitoring  will be like a grand finale of the Project Cheetah to be played in Kuno for a longer  period in the coming years'", said a senior official of the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFC&C).  Apprehensions, Concerns  on Chee

Midst Extinction Fear, Search Begins for Caracal in MP

caracal perfil

Madhya Pradesh is searching for carcal, a cat fastheading towards extinction in India. Known for its elusive nature, caracal is foundmostly  in Rajasthan, Kutch in Gujarat and perhaps, parts of Madhya Pradesh around Chambal ravines. Though nocaracal has been sighted for long in MP, efforts are on to spot  them in and around Kuno Palpur National Park  in Sheopur district bordering Rajasthan.

CameraTraps in Kuno

The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and thestate forest department are trying to locate caracal by placing cameratraps   in the jungle. Few years ago, there were reports in Hindi media in Sheopur about sightings of caracal  but it couldnot be confirmed.  However, theneighbouring Ranthambhore national park is home to some of these fascinatingcats. The park is located in Sawaimadhopur district .Besides, the cat isbelieved to  be spread in Karoli  and Dholpur districts  of Rajasthan also. In October this yearphotographic evidence of the endangered cat was reported from Kumbhalgarhwildlife sanctuary in Rajasthan. Divisional Forest officer Fateh Singh Rathore was  quoted by media   saying, “This is approximately after threedecades that a caracal has been spotted in the sanctuary. Last year, the forest staff claimed they had spotted one. However, there was no concrete evidence.Today, the caracal was captured by the camera. It’s a good sign as it indicatesthe sanctuary has appropriate grassland.” 

Though a report published in the ‘Journal of Threatened Taxa’, an international publication, did not mention the current population in Rajasthan, it is said that there has been a total of 24 caracal sighting reports since 2001, claimed to be highest in the country. As many as 17 of them were backed by photographic evidence also . Of which, 15 were from Ranthambore,along with a photograph taken from Sariska in 2004 and a camera trap picturefrom the Keoladeo national park in Bharatpur in 2017.

Also read:Tale of Missing Tigers of Ranthambhore: 4 More Takes the Count to 34 

Earlier , the cat was found in arid and semi-arid scrub forest and ravines in Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh. But now its presence is restricted  only to  Rajasthan and  Kutch.  Since 2001, there have been only nine photographic caracal records from Kutch  but there were no photographic records from Madhya Pradesh. However, its close proximity to Ranthambhaore has created hopes among the foresters of its possible presence in Kuno.

Also readFate of Lion project unknown midst Cheetah translocation in Kuno

The animal is believed to be heading towards local extinction and if  it happens ,it would be the second cat after cheetah which was officially declared extinct fromIndia in 1952. Incidentally, Kuno is being readied   for reintroduction of cheetahs. Though originally the plan was to make it the second home of Asiatic lions, Gujarat refused to part a pair of lions from Gir nationalpark.  

Express Chambal Way May further Threaten Caracal 

In February this year, the National Board forWildlife and the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change included thismedium-sized wildcat in the list of critically endangered species. Though notunder grave threat in its other habitats abroad, especially in Africa wherecaracal  is found in large numbers, theanimal is on the verge of extinction in India, some experts believe. The caracal is found in a number of countries across Africa, the Middle East, Centraland South Asia. Its listing as a critically endangered cat in India is expected to bring central funding toconservation efforts. It may also ensure that the animal is studied comprehensively for the first time, including its home, range, population and prey among others.

Also readAvni's killing: Core Issue of Tiger Corridors Lost in Oblivion

The caracal is rarely hunted or killed — in recent years, cases have been detected of the animal being captured to be sold asexotic pets — and the decline of its population is attributed mainly to loss ofhabitat and increasing urbanisation. Experts point out that the caracal’snatural habitat — for example the Chambal ravines — is often officially notified as wasteland. Land and environment policies are not geared towards the preservation of such wasteland ecology; rather they seek to ‘reclaim’ these areas to make them arable. Infrastructure projects such as the building ofroads lead to the fragmentation of the caracal’s ecology and disruption of itsmovement. Many experts believe that a major road project Chambal express way under construction in the ravines may further cause irreparable loss to its habitat. Theloss of habitat also affects the animal’s prey which includes small ungulatesand rodents.

Also readCheetahs' Flight to India Delayed

Sources in the National Board for Wildlife said,“Including the species in the recovery programme will mean the species willhave a separate conservation programme. The ministry may first try to have apopulation estimation and then carry out a study on their habitat. Once thesefindings are available, a habitat improvement and breeding programme may betaken up. If required, a captive breeding programme may also be undertaken, governmentsources said.

Mid -air Gallop to Catch a Hunt 

This wild cat has a short face but long canine teeth. It also has  long legs,  and distinctive ears — long and pointy, withtufts of black hair at their tips giving its Indian name as Siyagosh ( blackear) . "The caracal has traditionallybeen valued for its agility and extraordinary ability to catch birds inflight; it was a favourite coursing or hunting animal in medieval India. Twilightis caracal’s morning when the agile animal is hyperactive.  It stalks through grasslands and gallops over 10 feet to catch a bird  in the air . And its mid-air maneuvering is   attributed to its impeccable control overits   muscles. So in one go, it gallops,catches a bird in the air, twists its body in two opposite directions to strikea balance  for a perfect  and smooth landing back on the  ground. Besides, the caracal also feasts onrodents and small ungulates among others. It would be a very bad day  in the wildlife history of India if  caracal extincts from our jungles.


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