A day after the eighth cheetah died in Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park, Union Forest and Climate Change Minister Bhupender Yadav said the government was in touch with experts on the matter but “the cheetahs will not be relocated.”
“We are also in touch with international experts… Our team will visit and review the situation… We are looking at all possible aspects… This is the first year for them to settle in their habitats… I am hopeful that the project will be successful,” Yadav said. . Asked if some of the cheetahs would be relocated, he replied, “…they will only stay in Kuno… they will be looked after only in MP”.
There are now 16 cheetahs in India
The latest death was the second this week, bringing the number of cheetahs present in MP Park to 16, including a cub. The incident invited sharp criticism from opposition parties, who blamed the deaths on “mismanagement” by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in caring for the African big cats after they were brought in for a mere “show of political power”.
The leopard, named Suraj, was a male and the cause of its death will be confirmed after a post-mortem, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests JS Chauhan told news agency ANI. “….deaths are happening frequently in such projects…if it happens naturally then we should not panic…we are trying to ensure that no more deaths occur,” he added.
The Supreme Court expressed concern
In May, the Supreme Court expressed concern over the death of cheetahs and asked the Center to consider expanding their habitat to other states without bringing in “politics”. The apex court said it was not “questioning” the Centre’s intention, but for cheetahs, since India has 3-4 sanctuaries for them, they should be considered. “Rajasthan has many such places. Everyone needs to be taken on board. Do not bring politics into this matter,” it said.
An Indian Express report after the court hearing said that when India signed the agreement on cheetahs with Namibia in July last year, Rajasthan’s forest department had written to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), which had been entrusted with the project by the SC, to host it. A few big cats in the state. However, the Center rejected this request, reports said.
Eight cheetahs were brought in from Namibia in September last year and another 12 cheetahs were transferred from South Africa in February.