In a major jolt to the ambitious project of India to reintroduce Cheetahs into Indian Forests, a third Cheetah airlifted from South Africa, died at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.
The female cheetah, Daksha, is the third death of a big cat in over five weeks. It was among the 12 felines specially airlifted to India in February 2023. According to the park officials, Daksha was found fatally injured by the monitoring team on May 9. They said that treatment was done but said the animal died tragically at the same day. An official statement said that the wounds found on the female cheetah Daksha seem to have been caused by a violent interaction with the male, during the courtship/ mating attempt. “Such violent behaviours by male coalition cheetahs towards female cheetahs during mating are common. In such a situation, the chances of intervention by the monitoring team are almost non-existent and practically impossible. The autopsy of the dead female cheetah (Daksha) is being carried out by the veterinary team as per the protocol,” the statement said.
THE OTHER TWO CHEETAH DEATHS
Since last year, nine cheetahs have been introduced to the national park, of which two died in March and April. In March, Sasha died from kidney failure that she had been suffering from ever since she was brought to India. She started showing signs of weakness and exhaustion on January 23, at which point authorities tranquillised her and sent her to a quarantine area where she would receive care.
The second Cheetah, Uday, was discovered sick in the national park in April and passed away while receiving treatment.
MORE CHEETAHS TO GET RELEASED
The death of the third wild animal comes on the heels of a statement by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change that five more cheetahs would be released in the wild in Kuno before the monsoon arrives. The remaining ten will be released in alternate sites including Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, it said. This was before Daksha’s death on May 9.
PROJECT CHEETAH; EXTINCTION
The Asiatic cheetah was declared extinct in India in 1952. It is a critically endangered species now only in Iran. In 1947, there were confirmed records of the cheetah’s presence in India. However, it is widely believed that Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo gunned down the three surviving males in 1947.
PROJECT CHEETAH; REINTRODUCTION
India and Namibia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in July. Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Namibia Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah signed the agreement in New Delhi.
In 1970s, the country tried to reintroduce Asiatic cheetahs from Iran. However, the deal could not take place after a regime change in Iran following the 1979 Iranian revolution. The plan to reintroduce African Cheetah started from 2009 after a feasibility study conducted by the Union Environment Ministry and the Wildlife Trust of India found Kunho as the most suitable park for the reintroduction. However, the plan ran into hurdles as the Supreme Court stayed the reintroduction in Kunho, as the National Board for Wildlife had not been privy to the matter. However, the SC in January 2020 approved Cheetah’s reintroduction after a government plea.