The BJP-led Madhya Pradesh government has asked the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to locate a new natural habitat for some of the cheetahs imported from Africa to Kuno National Park.
The government expressed concern that it would not be feasible to monitor the movements of all cheetahs if they were allowed to roam free.
Kuno National Park has already received 20 cheetahs, eight from Namibia and twelve from South Africa, one of which has died. While four cheetahs have been released into the wild, the remaining 15 are still confined within a six square kilometre enclosure and are expected to be released into the wild in the coming months.
The Madhya Pradesh forest department official, Kuno National Park can only accommodate 9 to 10 cheetahs due to the size of its territory. Currently, four cheetahs have been released into the wild, with two exploring the buffer area.
Officials said monitoring 17 cheetahs in the wild would require a large number of forest officials equipped with drones, vehicles and wireless equipment. Therefore, the state government requested the National Tiger Conservation Authority to find a second habitat in the wild for some of the cheetahs, as having too many people inside the park would disturb the natural habitat.
According to the MoEFCC Cheetah Action Plan, Kuno National Park can support up to 21 cheetahs. However, the park already has 23 cheetahs, including eight brought from Namibia and 12 from South Africa. Although one of the Namibian cheetahs died, another female gave birth to four cubs and more births are expected.
State wildlife department officials are now faced with the decision to release the South African cheetahs into the wild. However, monitoring all 19 adult cheetahs simultaneously would be challenging and would require more than 100 workers.
Wildlife Institute of India (WII) scientist Qamar Qureshi, in charge of the cheetah reintroduction project, told the Hindustan Times that releasing all the cheetahs in Kuno National Park was never part of the plan.
He said the project team knew all along that Kuno would not have enough space for all the cheetahs, so other wildlife sanctuaries such as Nauradehi, Mukandra and Gandhisagar were also being considered as potential habitats for the animals.
Qureshi mentioned that the Mukandra Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajasthan is ready for the introduction of cheetahs, but the final decision will be made by the Union Ministry of Environment and the NTCA.
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