Following the deaths of two cheetahs last week, the expert advisory committee overseeing the implementation of Project Cheetah has recommended that all animals undergo a thorough, medical review. This includes even recalling animals released into the wild and investigating whether radio-collars hanging from their necks could indirectly cause infection, multiple sources confirmed. Hindu.
Of the 20 animals transferred from Africa, five have died since the first introduction in two batches in September 2022. Eleven animals have since been released into the wild, and four within a square km enclosure BombasWhere they are in captivity.
The trigger for withdrawal was the latest fatality; A cheetah named Surya died from a wound on his neck which then became infected with maggots. Maggot larvae were also found in the radio-collar and had fatally infected the animal, according to Rajesh Gopal, who chaired the apex steering committee monitoring the Cheetah Project.
Whether the wound was caused by friction from the collar leading to a parasitic infection is a matter of debate, with officials saying that in India’s long history of radio-collaring tigers, leopards and now cheetahs, such infections have never been seen.
“In my 30 years of experience, I have never seen a single case. But we have to check each animal individually, remove the collar and test them. It is a laborious exercise but we have no choice,” said Dr Gopal Hindu“The collars used today are polystyrene and much lighter than the collars used in earlier years,” he added.
‘Speculation,’ says the ministry
In a statement on Sunday, the Union Environment Ministry said that “…reports (of deaths due to radio-callers) were not based on scientific evidence and were speculation and hearsay.”
“Radio-collars were fitted to animals in Namibia and Africa. We have to take tissue samples from all the animals, analyze them in the laboratory and tell the experts if there are certain parasites, bacteria or viruses that the animals are unable to resist. Other than that, everything is speculation,” an environment ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
The ministry’s official statement stressed that all animal deaths so far could be attributed to “natural causes”.
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Two days before Surya was found dead, another cheetah, nicknamed Tejas, died after being attacked by a female cheetah. the bomb. The animal “died instantly” after being bitten on the neck, so it’s unlikely that parasites were a factor, the official noted earlier.
Indeed, Sun is the only one among the wild cheetahs to have died; The remaining deaths occurred in captive animals. In addition to the deaths of five adult cheetahs, three of the four cubs also died in May.
Compared to tigers, lions, and leopards, cheetahs are relatively “prettier” animals and are likely to die more in the future. Independent experts, however, said that keeping the animals in quarantine for extended periods before arriving in India had “weakened” them, officials said.
Looking ahead, a cheetah research center – with rescue and rehabilitation facilities – will be established Other measures on the card include bringing additional forest areas under the administrative control of Kuno National Park; adding additional frontline forces; And a second home for the animals has been set up at Gandhi Sagar Sanctuary, the ministry statement said.