21 Jul 2023

Cheetah Deaths In Madhya Pradesh's Kuno: Supreme Court Asks Centre Why All Animals Were Sent To Kuno In MP, Says Do Not Make It A Prestige Issue

New Delhi: Expressing concern over the death of 40 per cent of cheetahs brought from Namibia and South Africa in less than a year, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Central Government why all cheetahs were sent only to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.

A bench of Justices BR Gavai, J B Pardiwala and Prashant Kumar Mishra, while hearing a petition filed after two more cheetah deaths last week, said in this case the figures present a worrying picture of the state. This species was declared extinct in the country in 1952.

No cheetah expert in task force appointed by govt

The top court, while hearing a petition filed by a committee headed by wildlife expert MK Ranjit Singh, asked the government several questions. In this case, the committee told the court that there was no cheetah expert in the task force appointed by the government. Considering the seriousness of the death of two cheetahs last week, the committee had requested the bench for an urgent hearing.

"Why is it becoming a prestige issue", the bench asked Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre. Why were all (cheetahs) kept at one place instead of different areas?'

The bench further said, "Please take some positive steps. 40% deaths occurring in less than a year does not paint a good picture."

Some of the cheetahs may be shifted to Rajasthan, suggests SC

The apex court suggested that some of the cheetahs may be shifted to Rajasthan, particularly the Jawai National Park. This park is very famous for leopards.

In September 2022 and February 2023, 20 cheetahs were brought to India from Namibia and South Africa. Since March this year, eight cheetahs, including three cubs, have died in Kuno National Park due to various reasons.

Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Central Government before the apex court, assured of taking all necessary steps for the cheetahs. She said that when similar projects were implemented in Rajasthan, there were deaths of tigers inside the enclosures. She also said that the authorities at the highest level have taken cognizance of the deaths of Cheetahs.

She also said that the deaths were not alarming, as up to 50 percent of the deaths were expected within the first year of the project. The apex court will next hear the matter on August 1.

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