Wildlife expert points out problems with Project Cheetah

Dubey sees a plethora of issues with the implementation of Project Cheetah, which has claimed the lives of six big cats

NEW DELHI | Updated: 14 August, 2023 5:48 pm IST
So far, nine cheetahs have lost their lives in Kuno National Park

NEW DELHI: India’s ambitious Project Cheetah, which has lost 45 per cent of the big cats imported from Africa even before their translocation completed one year, is ailing from several execution-related issues.

Experts highlight poor monitoring, mismanagement, and unavailability of timely healthcare as some major problems, which has claimed the lives of nine cheehas, including three cubs, at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.

Project Cheetah was cheered as success when PM Narendra Modi released eight cheetahs translocated from the African nation of Namibia on the occasion of his 72st birthday in September last year. In February this year, the government released 12 more cheetahs brought from South Africa.

READ MORE: Two cheetahs injured in group clashes in Kuno over dominance

The fanfare ended with the death of female cheetah Shasha in March this year. Within months, six adult cheetahs and three cubs lost their lives due to different factors.

Noted wildlife activist Ajay Dubey, whose petition before the Supreme Court led to temporary ban on tourism in important tiger reserves in 2012, blames internal politics among officials behind faulty implementation of the project, and demands a thorough investigation.

“The execution of the Project Cheetah at the ground level is the main problem. The project lacks required monitoring and supervision,” Dubey tells The New Indian over phone, adding, “one of the deceased cheetahs which died in the enclosure was found to be underweight. How can a captive cheetah be underweight?”

He also claims that the three cubs died of heat waves. Dubey accuses the officials responsible for the project execution of negligence in monitoring the health of the big cats.

Referring to radio collar infection, said to be a major reason behind the cheetahs’ poor health, Dubey says: “It (tackling radio collar infection) is not a rocket science. If any cheetah contracts infection, their movement will be affected. They happen to be under CCTV monitoring and drone supervision but nobody understood and acted.”

READ MORE: Tragic loss: Eighth Cheetah fatality in four months

The activist argues that the officials working on the project are well trained and are well connected with high-skilled veterinarians. “And yet, three cheetahs could not be saved. The question arises why the forest department failed to identify the problem in time. Because of sheer negligence.”

“Whenever any cheetah faced any health issue, doctors were called from Bhopal, a distance of more than 350 km. Were they not fully prepared?” he questions.

Dubey slams authorities for calling these deaths as ‘natural’. “It is criminal negligence. It seems so cosmetic. An accountability has to be there.”

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