8 May 2023

Madhya Pradesh: Team Of Experts Visit Kuno; What They Said About Current Status Of Project Cheetah

Sheopur: On the directions of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a team of experts visited the Kuno National Park on 30 April, 2023 and reviewed the current status of the Project Cheetah. The team examined all aspects of the project and submitted a comprehensive report on the way forward. 


The experts hinted that the cheetahs could be released into areas other than Kuno. Thus more populations could be established by releasing the felines in other areas.


Release into Gandhisagar, other areas after monsoon


The experts said that five more Cheetahs will be released into wild before monsoon. Once the monsoon rains are over in September, the situation will be reassessed. Further releases into KNP or surrounding areas and Gandhisagar Sanctuary and other areas will be done in a planned manner as per the Cheetah Conservation Action Plan to establish meta population.


All cheetahs in good physical condition

The team inspected most of the cheetahs from a distance and evaluated the current procedures and protocols for managing the animals. All the cheetahs were in good physical condition, making kills at regular intervals and displaying natural behaviours. After discussion with the Forest Department officials in KNP they agreed on the next steps to be taken going forward.


5 more cheetahs to be released into wild before monsoon


Five more cheetahs (three females and two males) will be released from the acclimatisation camps into free-roaming conditions in KNP before the onset of the monsoon rains in June. Individuals were chosen for release based on their behavioural characteristics and approachability by the monitoring teams. These released cheetahs will be monitored in the same way as those that have already been released.

Remaining 10 cheetahs to remain in acclimatisation camps during monsoon


The remaining 10 cheetahs will remain in the acclimatisation camps for the duration of the monsoon season. Certain internal gates will be left open to allow these cheetahs to utilise more space in the acclimatisation camps and for interactions between specific males and females to take place.


Cheetahs will be allowed to move out of KNP

Cheetahs will be allowed to move out of KNP and will not necessarily be recaptured unless they venture into areas where they are in significant danger. Their degree of isolation will be assessed once they settle down and appropriate action will to be taken to enhance their connectivity to the group.


The female who gave birth in March, will remain in her camp to hunt and raise her four cubs.

The team observed that  twenty cheetahs were successfully translocated to Kuno National Park (KNP) in September 2022 and February 2023 from southern Africa in the initial phase of an ambitious project to re-establish the species within its historical range in India.


Cheetahs will establish their own communication networks


After several months the cheetahs should establish their own communication networks and settle down in relatively fixed home ranges. It is important that individual cheetahs do not become totally isolated from the reintroduced group during this phase as they will then not participate in breeding and will thus be genetically isolated. 


Two points should also be noted regarding the carrying capacity of cheetahs in KNP; Firstly, it is impossible to determine the precise carrying cheetah capacity in KNP until the cheetahs have properly established their home ranges and secondly, the home ranges of cheetahs can overlap substantially depending on the prey density and several other factors.

Project hopes to benefit global cheetah conservation efforts


The project hopes to benefit global cheetah conservation efforts by providing up to 100 000 km2 of habitat in legally protected areas and an additional 600 000 km2 of habitable landscape for the species. Cheetahs fulfil a unique ecological role within the carnivore hierarchy and their restoration is expected to enhance ecosystem health in India. As a charismatic species, the cheetah can also benefit India’s broader conservation goals by improving general protection and ecotourism in areas that have been previously neglected.


The team of experts that visited Kuno comprised of Adrian Tordiffe,  Veterinary Wildlife Specialist, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, South Africa; Vincent van dan Merwe, Manager, Cheetah Metapopulation Project, The Metapopulation Initiative, South Africa; Qamar Qureshi, Lead Scientist, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and Amit Mallick, Inspector General of Forests, National Tiger Conservation Authority, New Delhi. 

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