10 May 2024

Madhya Pradesh: Kuno cheetahs: Are there not enough herbivores for cheetahs to survive in open forest? What authorities are doing?

In the open forests of Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh's Sheopur, concerns arise about the diet of cheetahs, with the counting of herbivorous wildlife starting.

The forest department is focusing on arranging the food for cheetahs settled in the Kuno National Park, brought from South Africa. 

Cheetahs have crossed the boundaries of Kuno several times in search of prey

Currently, only two cheetahs have been released into the open forest in Kuno Park. Cheetahs released into the open forest have crossed the boundaries of Kuno several times in search of prey. Therefore, experts have decided to assess the presence of herbivorous wildlife, in the forest. This is to determine whether there is enough prey available for cheetahs or not.

Cheetahs to be released into the open forest

Another major concern is the preparation to release cheetahs kept in enclosures into the open forest. In this regard, the Indian Wildlife Institute has started counting herbivorous wildlife to assess the prey in the forest for cheetahs. Forest guards in different ranges of Kuno have been assigned the task of counting, where surveys are being conducted every two kilometers.

Wildlife Institute of India (WII) scientists are assessing the ground conditions before releasing cheetahs into Kuno forests. Earlier when the eight cheetahs were released in Kuno on September 17, 2022, it was found during the survey that the area could sustain a population of 21 cheetahs. So more cheetahs could be released in the future.

Officials decided to release cheetahs into the open forest soon

After bringing in eight cheetahs in the first phase from Namibia and 12 cheetahs from South Africa on February 18, 2023, a total of 13 cheetahs and 14 cubs are surviving in Kuno now. One cub is over a year old. Currently, only two cheetahs are in the open forest. Recently, the African team visited Kuno to increase the number of cheetahs in the open forest and during this time, officials decided to release cheetahs into the open forest soon.

Three herbivores weighing between 20 to 25 kilograms each constitute the diet of a cheetah in a week, as per Dr. Rajesh Gopal, Chairman of the Cheetah Project Steering Committee. When cheetah cubs are small, cheetals and sambar are beneficial prey for them. At least 40 animals per square kilometer are considered sufficient prey for every carnivore animal.

Preferred prey of cheetahs is chital

The preferred prey of cheetahs is chitals. In 2021, their population was 23 per square kilometer, which remained at 18 before cheetahs arrived in Kuno, and their population is considered adequate at 27 per square kilometer. Wild boars are also present in Kuno, but cheetahs cannot easily hunt them.

Thirakul R, DFO, Kuno, said that a pre-assessment is being conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India. Usually, this is done around December, but it is being done separately in Kuno to determine the status of herbivores for cheetahs.

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