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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

Controversies Chase Cheetahs In Kuno National Park

 

Controversies involving cheetah translocation in Kuno national park refuse to die down. Amidst   government denial of   cheetah pregnancy reports in a section of media, experts have raised questions over “alleged negligence on the part of Cheetah Conservation Foundation (CCF) for its failure to detect the pregnancy”. But Dr Laurie Marker of the CCF has been quoted by Indian media that,” This is true (the pregnancy) , she may be pregnant. We cannot say for sure, but it is believed so, and this would be her first litter”. “This amounts to utter negligence”, says experts and India researchers.  “How could CCF put an animal at risk? If the cheetah  named Aasha, was pregnant, why  did they  put the  pregnant animal at risk by   putting  her under stress  first by  tranquilizing a number of times, a long journey from Namibia to India  under sedation  and  then release in new environs”.Eight cheetahs were flown  from Namibia and released into the national park by the prime minister Narendra Modi on his birthday on September 17. 

 Were Cheetahs Tested for Pathogens Before Their Release 

Seasoned veterinarians examine cheetahs before quarantine for translocation; Cheetahs go through a number of pathological tests and a long vaccination process. “Was Aasha along with other cheetahs actually tested for pathogens?   Besides the PM ,other ministers and Indian researchers were exposed to the cheetahs , including Aasha, while they were released in Kuno”, asked a senior researcher in India wishing anonymity.  “Referring to the pregnancy when the CCF chief says "it is true", the whole process of medical examination of the cheetahs translocated to India becomes doubtful”, another researcher said. " This is a serious issue", he says. Dr Marker was also quoted in The Times of India,” "If Aasha is pregnant, it will be her first litter, and because she was caught in the wild, it did happen in Namibia. If she has cubs, we need to give her privacy and quiet. No people around her.” 

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

Director of Kuno national park, PK Verma however termed it “rubbish”.  The Indian officials in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh where Kuno is located, the Wildlife Institute of India and the Union ministry of environment and forest also denied the pregnancy. They said there were tests to prove that the cheetah was pregnant. However, so far, there is no denial from Dr Marker. Meanwhile, heavy rainfall in Sheopur , the district where Kuno is located on October 7 and 8  also lashed the Kuno national park. Park authorities were concerned about the cheetahs  in small open enclosures almost without  trees.

More Questions from the Cheetah Foundation 

Besides, pregnancy issue, there are other controversies reported in media which include the infrastructural issues  and those relate to a  task force  constituted to monitor the  issues of  further release of cheetahs from one enclosure to other and then to the open jungle and also the tourism activities.  Exclusion of the experts like  Yadvendradev Vikramsinh Jhala,  the dean of WII  and the man behind the translocation from the task  has been questioned. It was reported in a section of the media that the enclosures created for housing the Namibia cheetahs were not high enough and that cheetahs may jump out from them.  Media reports quoted the cheetah CCF experts in Kuno talking about the “infrastructural issues”. In fact, on September 28, thewildlifeindia.com, after a nod from Dr Laurie Marker, e-mailed a set of question on various issues relating to the translocation. But her response is still awaited.  

Also readUrban Tigers On The Prowl in Bhopal 

 Among other things, we sought to know, (1)Currently India doesn’t seem to have sufficient suitable habitat (in terms of area/extent) to host a population of cheetahs, even as a meta-population. How do CCF and you plan to address this issue while sending cheetahs to India?  (2)India’s reserves are unfenced. Currently there is no record of introduction of cheetahs in unfenced habitats resulting in established populations of wild cheetahs. In other words, there is no record of the success of cheetah introduction in unfenced habitats. Your response please .(3) In light of the criticism for the project by many internationally renowned scientists, including South Africans, would continuing to engage with this introduction uncritically not damage Namibian reputation internationally? (4)  The fact that the predictions of the project proponents are that many of the introduced cheetahs will die, makes it difficult to support this introduction from an animal welfare perspective. What are your views regarding this? (5) In any reintroduction plan, the aim is to first create suitable conditions for the target species and then introduce the target species. Since India has not put in the required effort to create the suitable conditions for free-ranging cheetahs, why did Namibia and CCF send cheetahs to India and also planning to send more? In case we get her response, we will update this story.

Cover Image Courtsey Kuno National Park 

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