Centre Informs Supreme Court That Kuno Cheetah Deaths Not ‘Unduly Alarming’, Considering Expected Mortalities

Aug4,2023 #cheetah #SUPREME COURT
Namibia National Park Cheetah

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Published on: 4 August 2023 at 17:01 IST

The Centre has conveyed to the Supreme Court that the recent deaths of cheetahs translocated to Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park from Africa are troubling but not “unduly alarming.

In an affidavit filed before the Apex Court, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) stated that the survival rates of introduced cheetahs can be as low as 10%, indicating that 50% mortality among adult cheetahs is anticipated even in non-introduced populations.

As per media reports, another cheetah has died in Kuno National Park this week, bringing the total number of deaths to nine in the last five months.

The Supreme Court has been considering an application from an expert committee formed to guide the NTCA in India’s cheetah reintroduction program.

The committee has urged the court to direct the NTCA to keep them informed of developments and heed their advice and submissions.

During a previous hearing, the Bench questioned the Centre about the deaths, stating that forty percent of the cheetahs dying in less than a year is concerning. However, the Centre clarified that the mortalities were not caused by any inherent unsuitability at the Kuno site.

According to the Centre’s affidavit, post-mortems of cheetah carcasses revealed that two male cheetahs died in July due to traumatic shock.

In May, three cubs were found to be severely dehydrated and underweight.

One cheetah died due to confrontation with two adult males during mating, resulting in deep puncture wounds and frontal bone fractures.

Another cheetah died due to renal insufficiency and severe gastritis. The Centre maintained that the deaths were due to natural causes and not poaching, snaring, poisoning, road hits, or electrocution.

To ensure the well-being of the remaining cheetahs at the Kuno site, the Centre outlined several steps, including capturing all cheetahs for critical medical examination, administering prophylactic treatment to surviving cheetahs, and reviewing project implementation.

The Centre is also consulting international cheetah experts and veterinarians in cheetah management and providing further training and capacity building for veterinarians, frontline staff, and officials in cheetah management.

The Centre informed the Court that a Steering Committee of experts has been formed to oversee and monitor the Project Cheetah implementation.

The Committee is collaborating with international cheetah experts for veterinary care and day-to-day management while adhering to the scientific Action Plan to ensure the survival of cheetahs in their natural ecosystem.

The affidavit also stated that the reintroduction/conservation translocations of large carnivores are a global approach to safeguard endangered species and restore ecosystem balance. India’s Project Cheetah aims to reintroduce the cheetah, which was eradicated primarily due to historical factors, back into the country.

The introduction of cheetahs into the Kuno site is being carried out in coordination with the State of Madhya Pradesh and the Central Government.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority is responsible for monitoring the project at the national level with technical assistance from the Steering Committee and the Wildlife Institute of India.

The expert committee had previously challenged the central government’s decision to import Namibian cheetahs to India in 2013.

However, the government was eventually granted permission in January 2020 to reintroduce African cheetahs on an experimental basis, subject to supervision and survey by the expert committee.

Despite concerns over the recent deaths, the government continues to work towards reintroducing cheetahs in selected sites based on the availability of cheetahs from African countries and habitat suitability, prey availability, and protection measures.

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