Kochi: Efforts are on, but authorities are yet to capture the last two cheetahs currently in the wild in Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park, sources associated with Project Cheetah told The Wire on Friday, July 28.
Officials have been darting all free-ranging cheetahs that were released in Kuno as part of Project Cheetah, and bringing them back to enclosures in the Park to conduct health checks on the animals since mid July. The move has come after experts pointed out that radio collar-caused infections led to the death of cheetahs Tejas and Suraj on July 11 and 14.
Female cheetahs evading capture
The cheetahs Nirva and Dhatri (formerly named Tbilisi) are the only free-ranging cheetahs in Kuno at the moment. All the other 13 cheetahs that were brought in from South Africa and Namibia as part of Project Cheetah – India’s intercontinental cheetah translocation project – are currently housed in bomas or enclosures in the Park. These also include free-ranging individuals that were released in the wild in Kuno.
Five cheetahs have died so far. They were among the 20 cheetahs that arrived in Kuno.
Since July 15, seven free-ranging cheetahs have been captured, brought back to enclosures and their health checks done, to ensure that there are no fatal infections due to the radio collars. The radio collars of six cheetahs have been removed after health tests, the state forest department said on July 23. The authorities also captured two cheetahs, Prabhas and Veera, on Wednesday, July 26.
Though efforts have been on for at least two days now to catch the female cheetahs, Nirva and Dhatri, the last free-ranging cheetahs in Kuno, the teams on the ground have not been able to capture them so far, said a source involved with the Project Cheetah.
Another source said that the teams tried darting the animals “a few times, but failed”, possibly because the animals are “very shy”.
The sources did not want to be named as the Madhya Pradesh state government had announced a gag order on officials associated with the project last week which prevents them from officially talking to the media about the latest developments in the programme.
There were “problems” with Nirva’s radio collar, but monitoring teams are observing the animal closely, one of the sources said. The teams sighted her directly and were also able to see her pugmarks and other indirect signs – so there is no need to “worry” about the animal, the source added. Plans are still on to capture the two animals, the source said.