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Namibian Cheetah Sasha Dies In Kuno National Park

Sasha, one of the 8 cheetahs translocated from Namibia in September last year and released in Kuno national park , died on March 27. After almost two months’ of illness, the five year old female cheetah died in the morning.  Addditional chief secretary forest department JS Kansotia confirmed this.  Sasha was diagnosed with hepatorenal, a kidney and liver-related infection, in the last week of January, four months after she was brought to Kuno in September 2022.  Sasha was  brought up in captivity in Namibia after she was picked up in malnourished  condition in a farm field there . Knowing her health conditions, Indian officials had even objected to her translocation as they apprehended that she might not last in the wild. Renal Complications  On January 23 , the female cheetah  had showed signs of fatigue and weakness, after which she was tranquilised and shifted to the quarantine enclosure for treatment. “Two days after medicines had been injected intravenously, the cheetah was showin

More Questions On Cheetah Project in Kuno

Cheetahs in Kuno

Atlast the process of releasing cheetahs in the  open forest of Kuno national park began albeit with some delay. And this has happened at a time when some fresh controversies are surrounding the already controvertial cheetah project. After two cheetahs – one each  male and a female- were released, more  cheetahs will be  out in the open forest of Kuno  ,  the  site selection   of which has been questioned by  none other than  a key Indian wildlife scientist, who was also the lead author of Action Plan for Introduction of Cheetah in India . YV Jhala , whose  tenure as the dean of the prestigious Wildlife Institute of India (WII) was recently cut short  abruptly , has also made several  revelations  related to the project . Soon the managers of the cheetah project are all set to face a situation when the cheetahs cross over the 748 sq km area of the park to venture out in the neighbouring villages and fields, an eventuality officials would want to avoid  but can't. 

Government Needs to Show Political Will for Cheetah Landscape

A village near Kuno

After release  of  the two cheetahs more are in queue in Kuno to  move out  and explore the jungle . There are already 18 cheetahs waiting for their release in this central India forest. In fact,  as per the cheetah action plan, every   year 10-12 cheetahs are required to be imported from African countries for the next 5 years at least. No one can hold  them back  inside the small 748 square km area of Kuno  and they  will definitely venture out.

Also readCheetahs in Kuno: Deep Divide Over the Project 

 “ The real test of both cheetahs and their managers will begin now. And this will  continue for the years to come- to  check  cheetah outing, conflict with the  villagers around  and to bring back them into the park”, a senior official  commented.  Sooner or later the government needs to show a political will to declare the 4000 sq kms area  or so around Kuno as Cheetah landscape. “It is expected to bring legislation and enact laws to do so . But this doesn’t seem to be possible in the current socio –political scenario”, a senior MoEFC&C official commented. 

Questions Over Kuno 

Kuno national park

When  all this is all set to happen in the Kuno’s theater ,  the former dean of WII ,Jhala has raised an important issue of the site selection of Kuno and the lack of prey base in the forest. These points were already raised by an international community of scientists and experts in the past. The area of Kuno vis- a -vis  its cheetah carrying capacity has already been a subject of animated discussion and debate. Unlike other big cats, it doesn’t stalk, cheetah is a courser. And while doing so, it runs long distances and while doing so, they travel long distance . How many square kms should one cheetah occupy  is also debated. Denying the claims of the project proponents  that Kuno can carry 21  cheetahs ,   independent experts  and biologists  have always maintained the capacity of Kuno as 7 to 8 cheetahs. Jhala has added one more issue to this, the lack of prey base.   At present, there are about 20 cheetal — the cheetah’s main prey — per square kilometre available at the Kuno , a sharp decline from the nearly 60 chital per square km that could be found in the park in 2014, Dr. Jhala said while talking to  The Hindu.  

“This, at the most, would sustain 15 animals, and five ought to have been shifted elsewhere. Unlike the Gandhisagar and Nauradehi wildlife sanctuaries- also  in Madhya Pradesh- which will take at least a year and investments worth  Rs 750 crore to be made suitable for the cheetah- Mukundara ( in Rajasthan) can immediately accommodate them,” Dr Jhala explained to the esteemed daily .  The eminent scientist also talked about  political considerations for the site selection of Kuno and its preference over Mukundura. Many IFS officers of Madhya Pradesh- both retired and serving-  also recalled  the " lion factor for cheetah project".  Kuno was originally  prepared for the introduction of  the Asiatic Gir lions, they remind.  But  not a single lion  could be brought despite a Supreme Court order in 2013 directing the state of Gujarat to send them. Till the cheetah project is on for the coming 15 to 20 years, no one would talk about  translocation of lions.

Apprehension Come True 

Cheetah airlifted from Namibia to Kuno

Meanwhile, officials have decided to let go of only five cheetahs out of the 8 brought from Namibia. Two of them werereleased on March 11.  The remaining three  have been found unfit for the wild  and are required to hone their skills to survive in the wild and will have to wait , officials explained.  If the readers could recall, while  cheetahs were first being airlifted from Namibia to India,  there were reports of  “ India refusing to  accept some of the animals as they were not wild.”  “Now it turned out to be correct” said a senior official of the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFC&C)  requesting anonymity. India,in fact ,wanted a replacement. YV Jhala, who led the team that visited Namibia ahead of the translocation, had written to the environment ministry in August last year advising that the three cheetahs not be translocated. After Jhala was relieved  from   the WII, he  revealed that he had written an email over the issue to the MoEFC&C.  Talking recently to the Hindustan Times, Jhala confirmed this. 

Also readUltimate Test When Cheetahs Face Leopards in Kuno National Park  

The HT writes, -Confirming this, Jhala said, “I sent a confidential mail to three environment ministry officers that cheetahs can’t hunt, ... .(but the), three cheetahs were translocated . On March 11,  a male and a female each were captured in a small cage by putting bait, and were released in the open. Now  the famous alliance of the two males -Elton and Freddie- will be released in the next one week or so.  The date of the release of the three remaining cheetahs, Sasha, Siyaya and Savannah- the three  weak cats -  is yet to be decided as the  Officials  are concerned over their chances of survival in the wild. There are 20 cheetahs at the Kuno National Park in Sheopur, after 12 more were brought from South Africa last month. The South African cheetahs are still in quarantine at Boma. 

By Deshdeep Saxena

Representational  Cheetah Pics courtsey Shubhoranjan Sen,  Second image a  village near Kuno  courtsey People's Archive of Rural India, Kuno National Park and Cheetah Conservation Fund(CCF)   head Dr Laurie Marker brings cheetahs  from Namibia to Kuno in September last year .   


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