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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

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

 

Cheetah

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

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 5 sq km enclosure with the prey like spotted deer or cheetal ,nilgai  or the blue bull among  and  wild boar. The cheetah will be able to run and kill the herbivore as the experts monitor their sprint.   SP Yadav, member secretary of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and additional director general of Forests in India said, “We will keep reviewing their movement. The biggest issue is their adaptation and acclimatization”. He also said that a task force is being constituted to review the situation periodically.  The task before the task force would be to monitor   their behavior and how they become used to the conditions in Kuno , the social behavior of cheetahs, how far they run after their release in the wild and  whether they  have a tendency to  reach near the human habitat.   

Also read:  Cheetah in Kuno National Park, Real Challenge Begins Now

Sanguine of success, SP Yadav said, “It is a long term conservation programme and I am sure it will succeed.”  Some Indian conservationists including Ravi Chellam and environmentalists like Valmik Thapar are skeptical. Chellam’s famous quote that “it is a vanity project” is still echoing in international media. Recently New Scientist, an international magazine covering all aspects of science and technology, writes, “it ( cheetah translocation project) is unlikely to succeed because the habitat provided is inadequate, scientists warn .” But Officials like Yadav and Yadvendradev Vikramsinh Jhala are more optimistic. Jhala said, “Kuno National Park has adequate space, ample prey and less pressure from the human population, all keys to the cheetah’s survival. Like African parks, Kuno is not fenced and there are villages on the edge of the park.

 Tourism Not Priority

cheetah

In the next few years, India anticipates a capacity population of 20  to 21 cheetahs in Kuno National Park. Yadav said, “  In about 5 to 10 years ,  the cheetah population  will be established in Kuno national park which has a carrying capacity of 20 to 21  cheetahs.”  An MoU with South Africa  is likely to be signed  sometime in the third week of  next month. Cheetahs from South Africa  can only be translocated after the  quarantine period of the present lot of cheetahs from Namibia  expires on October 17 2022. No cheetah will be translocated in any other park of India for  atleast the next   five years.  This would only be possible after the cheetah population in Kuno is consolidated and established . Only after   reviewing them, the decision to send cheetahs to Gandhi Sagar sanctuary in Neemuch and Nauradehi   in Madhya Pradesh and  Mukundara in Rajasthan will be possible.   Besides, there  will be no tourism in Kuno for atleast a year.  

Also read7000 Cheetahs  , 700 Lions: A Tale Of Misplaced  Priority

There will be no cheetah safaris in Kuno for atleast  6 months to a year, officials of the MoEF&CC  confirmed. “ Tourism is not our priority . Our priority is conservation”, they said. After the cheetah release on September 17, not even the officials of the state forest department in MP including the park director of Kuno or  those from MoEF&CC have visited the cheetah enclosures.  Only Namibian experts trained by Laurie Marker of Cheetah Conservation Fund  accompanied by some veterinarians have access  to cheetahs, that too in a hiding from watch towers.

Representational Images courtsey WWF

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