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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

Cheetah Safari: Kuno National Park Awaits South African Green Signal

 

cheetah safari

All eyes are on a South African delegation visiting Kuno Palpur National Park (KPNP)  to finalize the cheetah translocation project surrounded by controversies and also the concerns raised by the conservationists. This in fact alerted the South African government which decided to postpone the signing of MoU . Though  the government  has always been tightlipped over any date for cheetah translocation,   hectict attempts were made to  implement the  project by August 15 .The government of India decided to   introduce cheetahs in Kuno earmarked earlier as a second home for Asiatic lions. About 700 such lions are found only in the Saurashtra region of the western Indian state of Gujarat.

 S African Delegation In Kuno 

Cheetah enclosure of Kuno

More than one and half months ago, as many as 12 cheetahs were already quarantined in a private reserve of South Africa and were ready to be dispatched for Kuno . But the delay in signing of a formal MoU between the two nations also delayed the airlifting of the animals. “The South African government wants to satisfy itself that the re-introduction is a good idea. They are therefore sending their own delegation to India to inspect the release sight”, Professor Adrian Tordiffe faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria told thewildlifeindia. He said, “All the South African experts that have been involved in the project so far -including me- do not work for the S Africa government. So it is merely them making sure that all the boxes are ticked”.  

Also readDelay In Cheetah Translocation, Indian Bureaucrats in Tizzy

Adrian also said, “They can be very slow, but from the meeting I had with them last week, there are no major concerns about the project and I expect that they will be positive in their report.”  The South African bureaucrats are likely to travel to India between September 5 and 9.   He also said that “I don't think the cheetahs will be in India by the 15th of September. I have not been given any specific date, but it is only likely to happen in the 2nd half of September or early October.” However Tordiffe reiterated that leopard presence in the cheetah enclosures “is any concern”. “The cheetahs we are planning to send come from reserves that have leopards, lions and spotted hyenas”, he said. 

 "Cheetahs Are For Tourism"

Safari in Maasai Mara

Meanwhile, the minister of forest department in the state of Madhya Pradesh where Kuno is located has said recently that,” cheetahs would be reaching India in November and the date may coincide with November 1, the foundation day of the state of Madhya Pradesh. Last week, a news agency had reported that the state had also invited the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the release of cheetah, an event reportedly planned for him on August 15.After cheetah extinction from India several decades ago, the government of India decided to introduce it in Kuno, a choice contested by the conservationists and biologists in India. For decades Kuno was being prepared for  the lion's second home, a project always opposed by   politicians, bureaucrats and the tourist lobby of the state. 

Also read:Lion ,Cheetah  And The Politics Of Conservation

Despite a Supreme Court order in 2013 to introduce lions and not cheetahs, this project is going at a faster pace.  But some unknown factors have delayed it.  Though India signed an MoU with Namibia on July 20, there are no signs of cheetah translocation from the country. Cheetahs are ready in South Africa for shifting to Kuno but there is no MoU. Government said that this help develop grasslands in India, experts refused to buy the claim and said that the animal has no conservation value.  It is a vanity project . Cheetahs are for tourism and not for conservation”, says Ravi Chellam , one of India’s  eminent wildlife expert.

Restocking Of  Prey in Kuno 

Cheetals in Kuno
The state forest department in Madhya Pradesh is stocking the cheetah enclosures with spotted deer or cheetal as a prey for the fastest animal on the land. Conservationists also have reservation over the availability of prey for African cheetah and said that “the spotted cat is not used of preying over spotted deer and would kill smaller animals in African savannah”.  To make the most of their speed, cheetahs prefer the open plains to hunt small antelopes such as Thomson’s gazelles and impala. They often use grassy knolls or termite mounds to improve their view over the flat surrounding plains in search of prey. 

Also readCheetah Races For Kuno, Defeats Lion

They also hunt other small prey including hares and warthog. To see cheetah hunting in full flight really is a sight to behold, says African Wild Safari. The state government in MP plans to  hold cheetah safaris   in Kuno once  the translocation programme is over and the cheetah population   fully acclimatizes with Kuno surroundings.  But as of now,  cheetahs  fight to India and its safari continue to   face hurdles.  

Representational images: Banner piture Africa Endeavours

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