Govt. denies Cheetah deaths due to radio collaring

New Delhi, July 16, 2023

Denying reports of Cheetah deaths due to radio collaring, the Environment & Forest Ministry today said a preliminary analysis had revealed that all the mortalities were due to natural causes.

Out of 20 translocated adult cheetahs, five mortalities have been reported from Kuno National Park and as per the preliminary analysis all mortalities are due to natural causes. 

“There are reports in the media attributing cheetah deaths due to radio collar etc.  Such reports are not based on any scientific evidence but on speculation and hearsay,” the Ministry said in a release.

Project Cheetah, an ambitious project on bringing back the cheetah to India is being implemented by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in collaboration with the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and Cheetah experts from Namibia and South Africa. 

The project implementation is being done as per the Action Plan and a Steering Committee comprising eminent experts/officials involved in the first-ever successful tiger reintroduction in Sariska and Panna Tiger Reserve, to oversee the project has also been constituted.

Under Project Cheetah, a total of 20 radio-collared cheetahs were imported from Namibia and South Africa to Kuno National Park in a first-ever transcontinental wild-to-wild translocation. After the mandatory quarantine period, all cheetahs were shifted to larger acclimatisation enclosures. Currently, 11 cheetahs are under free-ranging conditions and 5 animals including a cub born on the Indian soil are in the quarantine enclosure. Each of the free-ranging cheetahs is being monitored round-the-clock by a dedicated monitoring team.

The Cheetah has been brought back to India after seven decades and a project of such a stature is bound to undergo ups and downs. 

“Global experience particularly from South Africa suggests that in the initial phase of reintroduction of cheetahs in African countries has resulted in more than 50% mortality. The mortality may happen due to intraspecific fights, diseases and accidents before release and post-release, the mortality might result from injury caused during hunting of prey, poaching, road hits, poisoning and attack by other predators etc. 

“Considering all these eventualities the action plan has made provision for annual supplementation of the initial founder population annually for managing the demographic and genetic composition of the reintroduction population.

For investigating the cause of cheetah deaths, consultation with international cheetah experts/ veterinary doctors from South Africa and Namibia is being done on a regular basis. 

Further, the existing monitoring protocols, protection status, managerial inputs, veterinary facilities, training and capacity-building aspects are being reviewed by independent national experts. The Cheetah Project Steering Committee is closely monitoring the project and has expressed satisfaction with its implementation so far.

“Further, steps like the establishment of a Cheetah Research Center with facilities for rescue, rehabilitation, capacity building and interpretation; bringing additional forest area under the administrative control of Kuno National Park for landscape level management; providing additional frontline staff; establishing Cheetah Protection Force; and creation of a second home for cheetahs in Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh have been envisaged,” the Ministry said.

The Government has deployed a dedicated NTCA team of officials to work in close coordination with the field officials. This team is engaged in analysing real-time field data collated by the field monitoring teams for deciding upon various management aspects including health and related interventions required to be in place for better management.

“Project Cheetah is yet to complete a year and it will be premature to conclude the outcome in terms of success and failure since Cheetah's introduction is a long-term project. 

“In the last 10 months, all stakeholders involved in this cheetah reintroduction project have gained valuable insights into cheetah management, monitoring and protection and we are optimistic that the project will succeed in the long run and there is no reason to speculate at this juncture,” the Ministry added.


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