26 Jan 2024

Madhya Pradesh: After Kuno, India's Second Home for Cheetahs Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary Nears Completion; South African Experts to Evaluate in February

A delegation from South Africa, including wildlife experts, is scheduled to visit the Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh next month to assess its readiness as the potential second home for cheetahs in India.

An official mentioned that the South African delegation will conduct an assessment in February, after which a decision regarding the introduction of the next batch of cheetahs will be made.

SP Yadav, Additional Director General of Forests at the Environment Ministry, previously confirmed the import of the next batch of cheetahs from South Africa for release into the Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary.

According to officials, approximately 90% of the preparations for the wildlife sanctuary have been completed. Gandhi Sagar, located about a six-hour drive from Kuno, spans 368 square kilometers with an additional 2,500 sq km surrounding area.

The Chambal River passes through the sanctuary dividing it into two parts. The western part is in Neemach district and eastern part is in Mandsaur district.

The predominant animal species that inhabit the sanctuary are the deer, of which the most easily sighted are the chinkara or Indian gazelle, Nilgai and Sambar. In addition the Indian leopard, langur, Indian wild dog, peacock, otter, and Mugger Crocodile are present.

Female cheetahs & cubs will be released in wild only when weather conditions improve

The two female Namibian cheetahs who recently gave birth to a total of seven cubs will be released in the wild only when the weather conditions improve.

Namibian cheetah Jwala gave birth to four cubs on January 20, marking her second litter in a 10-month interval. Jwala is described as a wilder cheetah, displaying cautious behavior towards humans and remaining alert even during rest.

The births have brought the total number of cubs at Kuno National Park to eight, contributing to a current population of 21 cheetahs, including six males, seven females, and eight cubs.

Unfortunately, the recent month also saw the death of Shaurya, an adult Namibian cheetah, on January 16. Officials are awaiting the post-mortem report to determine the cause of death.

Since March of the previous year, seven adult cheetahs, including Shaurya, have died for various reasons.

The cheetah conservation project, initiated under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Project Cheetah, has faced criticism due to the deaths of several animals.

Challenges encountered in the first year included unexpected development of winter coats by some cheetahs during the Indian summer and monsoon, leading to skin issues and infections. To address this, plans are in place to import cheetahs that do not develop thicker winter coats and administer prophylactic medicine to those already in Kuno before the monsoon season.

The focus for the project's second year will be on breeding these magnificent animals.

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