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A Cheetah By The Tail

 Cheetah  rescue operations after they stray  away from the  safe confines  of  congested  Kuno national park  have been reported   regularly in India  since  September 2022 when  the  maiden  batch of African cat landed in India  amidst much fanfare. But the latest visuals of yet another such action- this time in  a crowded Rajasthan village in Karauli district-put a question mark again  on the safety of the animal.   This cheetah had to be handled physically in order to prevent it from falling into a ravine as it cornered at the crest of the ravine after darting amid a gathering of an huge crowd nearby. Pawan's Life Was At Risk  Rajasthan forest  department officials alerted Kuno  National Park authorities  about the cheetah leading them to a rescue operation. Pawan, the male cheetah had wandered into Rajasthan through Chambal river bank and was spotted by the local villagers who in turn informed the  local authorities. “Male cheetah Pavan was rescued from Karauli district in Raj

Bringing African Cheetahs to India a Wrong Decision ?

Eperts removing cheetah collar for wound treatment

 India’s cheetah project has derailed as it faces an unprecedented crisis, not  even anticipated  by the cheetah managers- neither from Africa nor India. Though the project- wrapped in secrecy-  envisioned a high mortality of cheetah , the present cause of deaths did not find any mention in the Cheetah Action Plan. There are more issues including  politics, bureaucratic hurdles and red tapism  responsible for the present predicament and none of them have any link with wildlife and environment. Amidst all this,  officials and experts are trying hard to get the project back on tracks.

Conservation Project or Political Minefield ?

cheetah in kuno

Outbursts of an eminent South African veterinarian will explain his frustration and the present state of affairs in   managing the cheetahs in Kuno national park. Dr Adrian Tordiffe who is an eminent veterinarian from South Africa and is one of the five consulting panelists of international Cheetah experts for advice -as and when required. But, it seems, Tordiffe was not informed about the ill health of cheetahs. After the death of Tejas and Suraj , he shared his sentiments with a South African news website , netwerk24 . “It seems”, rued Dr Adrian , “as if we now find ourselves in a complicated political minefield”.  Tordiffe said he was "sorry to admit" the Indian scientists and officials in Kuno are keeping the South African scientists in the dark. The project has been in controversy right from its inception and a group of international experts had warned that it was “an   ill- advised plan with an unscientific approach”. The issue started building up soon after the cheetahs were brought to Kuno and the government insisted on keeping all the 20 in Kuno’s congested 748 sq km area.  Former chief wildlife Warden, JS Chouhan, one of the rare breed of wildlife experts in Madhya Pradesh, sought the attention of the Union ministry of environment, forest    and climate change (MoEFC&C) to shift some of the cheetahs to other sites. This did not go  down well in the bureaucracy in Delhi.   Chouhan said he wrote  as many as 8 letters to MoEFC&C but did not get any response. 

Also readNot Leopards, A Different 'Predator' is Killing Kuno Cheetahs

Mukundara national park, one of the sites mentioned in the action plan is already ready but the government refused to  use the jungle as a second home of cheetahs as Mukundara  is located in Rajasthan, a Congress ruled state. South African experts  continuously  talked about lack of  communication.  “ Even the  decision of  mating efforts of a South African  female cheetah with two  males from the same country led to the death of a cat. Laurie Marker, the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF)  executive director and an expert on the issue  was not consulted in this case. She  and not  Vincent van der Merwe   of meta population   manager or Dr Adrian, a veterinarian  were the experts to take this decision, but  the CCF chief was not consulted”, explained an MoEFC&C  official . The Cheetah Conservation Fund is a research institution in Namibia  and is concerned with the study and sustenance of the country's cheetah population.  She was instrumentl in  translocating 8 cheetahs from Namibia to India in September last year when PM Modi released them in Kuno. After a meeting of the Steering committee on Monday –July 17- Tordiffe told  the South African  news website, netwerk24,  the communication problem that existed between South African, Namibian, and Indian scientists was finally resolved when everyone met. The Namibian and South African veterinarians who are part of the Cheetah Project made it clear to their Indian counterparts that they should not be kept in the dark about the project. "We made it clear to them that they cannot manage the project alone without our input.” But before all this, MP’s PCCF (wildlife)  JS Chouhan was made a scapegoat and was   transferred from his post.

 African Cheetahs Face Opposite Weather Condoitions in Kuno  

cheetah in kuno

Two cheetahs -Tejas and Suraj- died because of septicemia resulting from the satellite collar- abrasion around their neck. The wounds deteriorated fast in the prevailing wet conditions in the monsoons. The  humid conditions also  abetted growth of maggots in the wounds. When all the  experts confirmed  deaths due to collar abrasions, the MoEFC&C , in a strange reaction, issued a denial  claiming  the deaths were due to " natural causes".  The Indian and African cheetah managers will have a huge task to bring back all the cheetahs in enclosures and remove their collars to save their lives. There are 5 cheetahs with severe infection on their neck. “The first priority is to save their life”, officials said.  There are 11 free ranging cheetahs in Kuno while four are still in enclosures. In fact, the collar- crisis was not even anticipated by those who conceived and implemented it.  One of the reasons behind the collar crisis is the growth of winter coats of cheetahs brought from Namibia and South Africa. Winter in South Africa is June to August. It is generally dry and cool, with snow falling in the mountainous regions. The Cape region  is however wet as it gets most of its rain in winter being a Mediterranean climate. September to October is springtime and the weather can be good, although rain is common. Namibia, a desert country, has two seasons, summer (November to April) also known as the rainy season and winter (May to October) also known as the dry season. Like Namibia, South Africa is in the southern hemisphere while India lies in the northern and eastern hemisphere. This is the time when hot and humid conditions prevailed in the Indian sub continent because of monsoon and Kuno is no exception. A senior scientist of   Dehradun based Wildlife Institute India explained, “This is the time when the winter coat grows over the African cheetahs. 

Also readPlans Begin To Capture  All Cheetahs To Remove Collars Amidst MoEFC&C Denial

Deterioration in collar abrasions in hot and humid conditions on the winter coat of cheetah also attracted maggots leading to the death of the two cheetahs”. Condition of the two cheetahs- Tejas and Suraj- was so bad that a major part of their body had rotten! This is the first year of change in the weather cycle for the African cheetahs in India. This is for the first time that the cheetah from the Southern hemisphere is facing altogether different weather conditions in a country that lies in the Northern hemisphere of the earth. DW, Germany’s international broadcaster has quoted extensively Pradnya Giradkar, India’s first cheetah conservation. Giradkar  termed cheetahs as "vulnerable species." "As a result of lower genetic diversity, cheetahs have poor sperm quality and are difficult to adapt to changes in environment.” “Research done by well-known geneticists, Stephen O'Brien and Laurie Marker shows that mortality of cheetah cubs is more than 70% in captivity. It will be definitely reduced when cheetahs [are] released in their free range," Giradkar told DW. Now the question – Was the decision of relocating the  African cheetah  to India wrong ? 

By Deshdeep Saxena

Banner image: Experts emoving collar for  wound treatment. Two images of  Kuno cheetahs  

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A Cheetah By The Tail

 Cheetah  rescue operations after they stray  away from the  safe confines  of  congested  Kuno national park  have been reported   regularly in India  since  September 2022 when  the  maiden  batch of African cat landed in India  amidst much fanfare. But the latest visuals of yet another such action- this time in  a crowded Rajasthan village in Karauli district-put a question mark again  on the safety of the animal.   This cheetah had to be handled physically in order to prevent it from falling into a ravine as it cornered at the crest of the ravine after darting amid a gathering of an huge crowd nearby. Pawan's Life Was At Risk  Rajasthan forest  department officials alerted Kuno  National Park authorities  about the cheetah leading them to a rescue operation. Pawan, the male cheetah had wandered into Rajasthan through Chambal river bank and was spotted by the local villagers who in turn informed the  local authorities. “Male cheetah Pavan was rescued from Karauli district in Raj