New Delhi: The BJP state government in Madhya Pradesh has asked the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to find a new habitat in the wild for some of the cheetahs brought to Kuno National Park from Africa as they would not be able to monitor the movements of all of them living free, reports Hindustan Times.
Kuno National Park has received eight cheetahs from Namibia and 12 from South Africa, of which one died. Four of the cheetahs were released in the wild last month while the balance 15 remain in an enclosure of six sq km. They are scheduled to be released in the wild over the next three to four months.
An official of the Madhya Pradesh forest department told the newspaper that spread over 748 sq km, the Kuno National Park can accommodate only nine to ten cheetahs since a cheetah’s territory is spread over 300 to 800 square km. Of the four cheetahs released in the wild, two are exploring a large part of the buffer area, the official told Hindustan Times. Recently, one of them, Oban, had to be brought back to the park from a nearby village.
“We have deployed two teams of 18 officials around the clock to monitor cheetahs in the wild. For monitoring 17 cheetahs in the wild, we have at least 126 forest officials equipped with drones, vehicles, and wireless sets,” the forest official said. Having so many people inside the park for tracking would disturb the natural habitat, he told HT. A second official told the newspaper that the department has written to the NTCA “for arranging a second home for the cheetahs”.
South African cheetah expert Vincent van der Merwe said Mukundara Hills National Park in Rajasthan is the best possible site for cheetahs as it was also included in the risk management plan. “It would be a wise decision to send some cheetahs to Mukandara,” he told HT.
Wildlife Institute of India (WII) scientist Qamar Qureshi, who is in charge of the project, told Hindustan Times that releasing all the cheetahs in the wild in Kuno was never the plan.
“We know that Kuno does not have enough space for all cheetahs and that is why Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary [in MP], Mukandra Wildlife Sanctuary, and Gandhisagar Wildlife Sanctuary [also in MP] were selected as other possible homes for them,” he said. Qureshi added Mukandara in Rajasthan is ready for the introduction of Cheetahs and the Union environment ministry and NTCA will have to take a final decision.