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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

Cheetahs In Kuno Kill Another Deer But The Real Test Awaits


After Freddie and Elton, the two male cheetahs, made their first kill in Kuno National Park making national headlines, the two spotted cats killed another spotted deer sometime on November 8 evening. Moving around the one square km enclosure, the fastest  land animal got some space to sprint  and  recover from the long confinement in small bomas - first in Namibia and then in Kuno. Like a fitness test, the deer hunting is taking place  inside  a  one square km fenced enclosure facilitating the cheetahs to  catch the cheetal (spotted deer) herbivore and kill. But this is being termed as  "cheetah project on the right track". The real test of cheetahs will begin when they are finally released in the open forest in the coming months to compete  and face the  ferocious  leopards and  packs of the wild dogs of Kuno,  officials of the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFC&C) admit.

Cheetahs Chase Deer Inside Enclosure


The second kill in  Kuno's enclosure  comes over three days after their first kill in the forests  on the evening of November 6 (Sunday), which was reported Monday. Cheetah is the fastest land animal on earth, capable of reaching speeds as high as 75 miles per hpur or 120 km/h . They are predators that sneak up on their prey and sprint a short distance to chase and attack and the poor deer inside the enclosure is no match to this speed. As the cheetahs need food after every two to three days, Kuno national park officials were expecting another kill.  When in smaller enclosures, these cheetahs were being fed with buffalo meat twice a week. And these cheetahs acted on the expected lines. “The monitoring team had also spotted them making a chase last evening,” a forest official said  excitedly . Every time the cheetahs make a kill, there is an adrenaline rush in the officials involved in their monitoring. From the crack of dawn to dusk, a team of over two hundred foresters have been leaving no stone unturned to keep an eye on the two cheetahs who were released from smaller enclosure to a bigger one earlier this week .The kill was spotted this morning ( Thursday) by a monitoring team that tracks the  two cheetahs everyday to ensure their safety. 

Also read Cheetahs In Kuno National Park : Future Tense !

The animals are tracked in the wild using a Very High Frequency (VHF) satellite collar. The two cats  are being monitored round the clock. “This is a huge task and also  a very big responsibility. It seems that the hard work of the ground staff is yielding results and the translocation project is heading in the right direction”, officials of the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change said. Out of the eight cheetahs brought from Namibia to Kuno, there are five female and three male Cheetahs. Two males have been released while the remaining may be released in the coming days later this month. Members of the cheetah task force are likely to meet soon to decide their release, one of the members said.

Six More Cheetahs To Be Released Soon


Many wonder why cheetah kills are making headlines. They are making headlines because  of the hype created by the translocation project  after the prime minister Narendra Modi released them in Kuno on September 17 .The cheetahs were flown in a special aircraft Namibia  covering  almost 8,000 km over the Indian ocean before they were released in Kuno. After their first kill , Freddie and Elton finished off about 25-30 kg ofmeat. This appetite and hunting behavior shows the cheetahs seem to be “ hail and hearty” and that they have not lost any muscle strength in their long travel and quarantine. There were   apprehensions before the project was executed  and  many experts world over are still  apprehensive over the success of the project. “Which is why when the cheetahs hunt,  it shows that  they are exhibiting normal behavior and  it is also a sign of adapting in the new environs.

Also readWhy Cheetahs in Kuno National Park Are Linked with International Ivory Trade ?

 “ This means that India’s cheetah introduction project involving a whooping Rs 96 crore is moving on the right track”, an official said. The next cheetah to be released in a larger enclosure will be Obaan, another male spotted cat. The release will likely take place in a week’s time. The other five are female cheetahs and have been named as Sasha, Siyaya, Savannah, Tbilisi and Asha.  Like Freddie and Elton, Savannah and Sasha may be put together in one large enclosure.  The others three may go together in a separate compartment. The larger enclosures consist of interlinked compartments spread across about 5-sq km area.  Adequate prey base has been ensured in these compartments so that the cheetahs facilitate the hunting. But the real test of the cheetahs will begin when they are finally released in the open jungle. 

By Deshdeep Saxena

Representational Images: Cover Pic Courtsey Press Information Bureau (PIB)


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