Amid some suggestions that possible infection linked to radio collars could be the cause of deaths of cheetahs at Kuno National Park, Head of Project Cheetah SP Yadav has said that “not a single cheetah died due radio collars”.
Yadav, who is also a member secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), told ANI in an exclusive interview on the completion of one year of reintroduction of cheetahs in the country, that carnivores and animals are monitored all over the world by radio collars and this is a proven technology.
“There is no truth that any cheetah died due to radio collars. I want to say that monitoring is not possible in the wild without radio collars,” he said.
“A total of 20 Cheetah were brought from Namibia and South Africa out of which 14 (adults) are completely healthy and are doing well. Four cheetahs were born on the soil of Bharat and one of them is now six months old and is doing fine. The three cubs died because of climatic factors,” Yadav told ANI.
Nine cheetahs died in Kuno National Park since March this year.
Yadav said no cheetah died at the Kuno National Park due to “hunting or poaching”.
“Generally, in other countries, poaching and hunting leads to deaths but our preparation was so good that not even a single cheetah has died due to hunting, poaching, or poisoning.. nor has any cheetah died due to human conflict..we have successfully achieved milestones in the past year,” he said.
“There has never been an attempt to move a cheetah from one continent to another and this was the first wild-to-wild translocation and there were a lot of challenges in it. Usually, in such long-distance translocation, a cheetah may die because it is a sensitive animal but no such death occurred here and the translocation was very seamless,” he added
Yadav said cheetah was reintroduced in the country last year after 75 years.
“If we look at the last year from the point of view of success, then the benchmark we had set has been achieved,” he said, adding that the survival rate of cheetahs has more than 50 per cent.
“Cheetah cubs have been born on Bharat soil. The process of adaptation to climate is going as per expectations and they are creating their own territory, fighting for their own territory, doing natural hunting, all this is happening…,” the senior official said.
Answering a query, Yadav said as per the MoU, South Africa is ready to provide 12 to 14 cheetahs every year.
“Preparations are going on for next batch of cheetahs at two sites, one is Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, where the habitat is suitable, and the work of making enclosure is going on at a very fast pace.. I hope that in November-December the work of fencing and enclosure will be complete and a decision will be taken to bring cheetahs there after inspection,” he said.
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’sisit to South Africa for the BRICS summit in August, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa lauded the initiative to introduce cheetahs in India and said the country is prepared to donate more as India takes care of big cats.
PM Modi released wild cheetahs, which had become extinct in India – in Kuno National Park, on September 17 last year.
Cheetahs – brought from Namibia – were introduced in India under Project Cheetah, which is the world’s first inter-continental large wild carnivore translocation project.
Twenty cheetahs were relocated from Namibia and South Africa to Kuno National Park in two batches — in September last year and in February this year.
Twelve cheetahs from South Africa arrived on February 18 in Kuno National Park after South Africa signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in the re-introduction of Cheetahs in India. Eight cheetahs were brought from Namibia and were released by PM Modi.
Radio collars have been installed in all the cheetahs and there is monitoring through satellite too. Apart from this, a dedicated monitoring team keeps monitoring the location.
Following the translocation of 12 cheetahs in February from South Africa, the plan is to translocate 12 annually for the next eight to 10 years.
The MoU on the reintroduction of cheetahs to India facilitates cooperation between the parties to establish a viable and secure cheetah population in India, promotes conservation and ensures that expertise is shared and exchanged, and capacity is built, to promote cheetah conservation.
The reintroduction of wild species, particularly cheetahs, is being undertaken as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines.
India has a long history of wildlife conservation. One of the most successful wildlife conservation ventures ‘Project Tiger’ which was initiated in the early seventies, has not only contributed to the conservation of tigers but also to the entire ecosystem.
The last three cheetahs in India were hunted by the Maharaja of Korea in Chhattisgarh in 1947-48. The Government of India declared cheetahs extinct in 1952 and the Modi government re-introduced cheetahs after almost 75 years.