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Experts Anxious Till Cheetahs Adapt Kuno National Park, Tourism Not Priority

  International cheetah experts are closely monitoring the movements of 8 spotted cats released on September 17 in Kuno National Park of central India state of Madhya Pradesh. Cheetahs are quarantined for a month and only trained Namibian handlers are allowed to “take care” of the  fastest land animal housed in different small enclosures. The animals are watched from machaans –  watch tower situated about “100 meters away”. Amidst continuing negative media reports on the success of the translocation project, the biggest concern of the Union ministry of forest, environment and climate change (MoEFC&C)   is adaptation  of new environs. “Let's see how soon the cheetahs adapt Kuno”.   Indian Officials Optimistic   Cheetahs are housed in smaller enclosures, the one shown on televisions sets when PM Narendra Modi released them on his birthday on September 17. After one month, they are likely to be released in a bigger enclosure. In another one month or so, they will be released in a

Elusive Cats of Panna, As Threatened As The Park


Panna national park, famous world over for its successful tiger relocation programme, has added another feather in its cap. During a  night safari, an Indian desert cat was spotted in the park which itself is threatened by the controvertial Ken Betwa river linking project. The cat was photographed by a tourist in Akola buffer, once famous for two tiger brothers- Heera–Panna. One of them died of poaching recently.  

Desert Cat and Rare Sighting

Also known as Asiatic wildcat , the Indian desert cat inhabits the Thar Desert (pic courtsey NiF Hive)  and is associated with the scrub desert. Soon after its sighting in Panna, the  the tiger reserve tweeted " In 1999, it was still reported as common in Bikaner, Barmer, Jaisalmer, Pali and Nagaur districts of Rajasthan .Only four sightings were reported from the Thar Desert between 1999 and 2006". Though its sighting was recorded in Nauradehi wildlife sanctuary of Panna landscape , in Madhya Pradesh and Mirzapur forests, it has not been seen in these jungles for long. The long hair covering the soles of its paws insulates its pads against the extremely hot and cold temperatures in deserts. Despite its rare sighting, they do not qualify as threatened, near threatened, or (before 2001) conservation dependent categories of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)   which has put it under its “least concern category”. 

Also readDeath of a Superstar Highlights  Signifiance of Tiger Corridors 

Like many other elusive cats, this one also remains in hiding in the daytime and hunts out under the cover of darkness. It roams in a small area of about five to six kilometers as it looks for prey – mainly smaller animals and birds.  In the absence of research work, not much is known about the desert cat, wildlife experts said. However, it is believed, like many other desert animals, it can survive without much water.  After the latest sighting, the Panna tiger reserve officials are browsing  its old records to see if the Indian desert cat was ever spotted there in the past, the park director Uttam Kumar Sharma told the local media.

Fishing Cat,  Vulnerable Like the Panna Reserve

But in August this year, a rare fishing cat was spotted in Panna when  it was caught on camera near Ken river on August 13 this year .Since 2016, the fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus ) is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The fishing cat lives foremost in the vicinity of wetlands, along rivers, streams, in swamps, and mangroves, experts said. About twice the size of a typical house cat, the fishing cat is a feline with a powerful build and stocky legs. It is also an adept swimmer and enters water frequently to prey on fish. It can even dive to catch fish. 

Also read: Midst  Extinction Fear, Search Begins for Caracal in MP

The state animal of West Bengal, the fishing cat populations are threatened by destruction of wetlands  and their  numbers are declining drastically.  The fishing cat has deep yellowish-grey fur with black lines ( like those of tigers) and spots( that of leopards) . Two stripes are on the cheeks, and two above the eyes running to the neck with broken lines on the forehead, it also has two rows of spots around the throat.

KBLP :Green Signal Without Green Clearances  

Sighting of the rare cats is again a testimony of the  ecological diversity of Panna landscape .But the rejoicing of the nature lovers may be short-lived. The controvertial Ken -Betwa project always referred to for its environmental toll " is all set to threaten the very existence of these  beautiful fauna", wildlife experts  believe  . The governments –both the states of UP ,MP  and the centre -are determined to implement the project, pendency of many green clearances notwithstanding. 

Also read: Future Tense: Turbulent Time Ahead for Panna Tigers

Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) , said that the project’s approval is an “illegal decision” because the forest, environmental and wildlife clearances for the project are still not in place. The project’s environment clearance is currently in a state of challenge at the National Green Tribunal. The final forest clearance is awaited. Also, many of the conditions set down by the Forest Advisory Committee, under the Union environment ministry, for ‘stage I forest clearance’ haven’t been addressed, Thakkar said.

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