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7 cheetahs dead; is India's Project Cheetah failing?

Regrettably, more disheartening news has surfaced from Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh through the recent demise of another male Cheetah.

By Shishir Agrawal
New Update
MP: Ninth cheetah dies in Kuno National Park; third within a month

Regrettably, more disheartening news has surfaced from Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh through the recent demise of another male Cheetah. This devastating loss brings the total number of cheetah deaths to 7. Reports indicate the discovery of severe wounds on the neck of this specific cheetah, found at approximately 11 am on Tuesday. In a prompt response, medical professionals quickly sought permission to administer sedation and initiate treatment. However, tragically, the team was unable to reach the animal in time, as it was discovered lifeless around 2 pm.

Speaking to PTI, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) Wildlife JS Chauhan stated that the 4-year-old cheetah named Tejas had died as a result of animal conflict. However, the precise cause of death can only be determined once the post-mortem report is available. Furthermore, a female cheetah named Daksha had also tragically lost her life in a similar conflict on May 9.

Project Cheetah, grand program and disappointing results

Last year on September 17th, in a grand event attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 8 Namibian cheetahs were released in Kuno National Park. The presence of the Prime Minister garnered significant attention, with extensive photo shoots and videography capturing the moment. The government received a plethora of accolades for this initiative. In February of this year, an additional 12 cheetahs brought from South Africa were released in the same park, further strengthening India's wildlife diversity. Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his optimism for the project's positive impact through a tweet. Tragically, the project has already faced the loss of 4 cheetahs, including Tejas, which now raises uneasy questions. The Congress party has held the government accountable for what they perceive as mismanagement in this project's shortcomings.

Cubs died due to malnutrition

An important milestone in this project occurred when the Namibian cheetah gave birth to a litter of four cubs. Unfortunately, three of the cubs did not survive due to reasons such as hunger, weakness, and heat. Following the birth of these cubs, situation was closely monitored for their well-being. On May 23, when the cubs were tracked, observers discovered that one cub was extremely feeble and unable to walk. It struggled to even lift itself. Despite undergoing examination by doctors, this cub could not be saved. Additionally, two other cubs succumbed to malnutrition later that same evening.

Is Project Cheetah a failure?

The death of cheetah cubs in this manner may be a tragic occurrence for Indians, however, experts indicate their chances of survival are very slim. M. Karen Lawrenson reveals that only 4.8 percent of cheetah cubs successfully reach adulthood. Therefore, even from a scientific standpoint, the demise of these cubs could have been foreseen. Besides Tejas, two cheetahs perished due to illness, and an additional female cheetah died as a result of territorial disputes. Statistics indicate that even in South Africa, 8 percent of cheetahs lose their lives in conflicts with others.

The environment provided for cheetahs in India differs significantly from that of South Africa. While cheetahs in South Africa and Namibia are confined to fenced reserves, in India they are gradually released into the open. As a result, their struggle for survival becomes even more challenging. Experts suggest that the project should be considered successful if at least 50 percent of the cheetahs brought to India survive. Unfortunately, only 17 out of the initial 24 cheetahs are currently alive. In light of these circumstances, it remains to be seen whether the government will wait for the cheetah population to shrink further to 12 individuals or take necessary action sooner.

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