The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has formed a high-level screening committee for the Government of India’s ambitious “Project Cheetah” in response to the recent deaths of six cheetahs, including three new-born cubs, in a span of two and a half months in Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park (KNP).
On May 25, the project’s nodal agency, NTCA, constituted a screening committee comprising 11 members. The committee’s formation was decided upon during a meeting with the Madhya Pradesh government’s additional chief secretary. The Secretary General of Global Tiger Forum, Dr Rajesh Gopal, will head the committee.
The other 10 members of the team are:
1. Shri RN Mehrotra, former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests & HoFF/CWLW, Rajasthan: Member.
2. Shri PR Sinha, former Director, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun: Member.
3. Dr HS Negi, former APCCF Wildlife: Member NTCA.
4. Dr PK Malik, former Faculty at WII: Member NTCA.
5. Shri GS Rawat, former Dean, Wildlife Institute of India/ Member WII Society, Dehradun: Member.
6. Ms Mittal Patel Social Worker, Founder Vicharta Samuday Samarthan Manch (VSSM), Ahmedabad: Member.
7. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) & Chief Wildlife Warden, Madhya Pradesh – Member.
8. Prof Qamar Qureshi, Scientist, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun – Member.
9. Inspector General, NTCA, New Delhi: Member.
10. Shri Subhoranjan Sen, APCCF- Wildlife: Member Convener.
The panel will also take consultation from a panel of international experts, including:
1. Prof Adrian Tordiffe, Veterinary Wildlife Specialist, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, South Africa.
2. Dr Laurie Marker, CCF, Namibia.
3. Dr Andrew John Fraser, Farm Olievenbosch, South Africa.
4. Mr Vincent van dan Merwe: Manager, Cheetah Metapopulation Project, The Metapopulation Initiative, South Africa.
The committee will monitor the development of cheetahs brought to India from Namibia and South Africa. In the notification issued by NTCA, the committee will “be in-force for a period of two years and will hold at least one meeting every month, besides taking field visits as and when required. The committee will also take decision on opening cheetah habitat for ecotourism and will suggest regulations in this regard. The committee will also be empowered to invite wildlife experts for consultation”. The notification was issued right after two more cubs of Namibian cheetah Jwala died on May 25.
Seven decades after the fastest-moving animal on earth was formally proclaimed extinct in India, four cheetah cubs were born to the translocated wild cats brought from Africa. However, three cubs have already passed away, and the health of the remaining one is under critical condition.
As per the MP Forest Department sources, the youngest and weakest of the four siblings passed away on May 23. The cub died on the hottest day of this summer, and the temperature was reported in the range of 46–47 degrees Celsius.
A dedicated team was monitoring Namibian female Siyaya/Jwala and three surviving cubs and found that the health condition of the cubs was not normal. Veterinarians rescued the three cubs and gave them attentive care, but despite their best efforts, only one cub survived.
The forest department said, “The lone surviving cub too is stated critical and under round-the-clock intensive medical care at the park’s hospital, where its condition is being stabilised. While the only surviving cub is being treated by vets at KNP hospital in consultation with Namibian and South African experts, its mother cheetah is stated to be healthy but is under continuous monitoring”.
The cheetah cubs were about eight weeks old and looked weak and dehydrated, maybe due to an extreme heatwave in the region. The mother cheetah from Namibia conceived for the first time. The cubs had only recently begun to walk with their mother for the last 8-10 days.
Recently, the adult female cheetah Sasha from Namibia died due to severe renal infections. On April 23, male South African cheetah Uday died due to cardiopulmonary failure, and 16 days later, female cheetah Daksha died.
The current cheetah count at KNP stands at 18, including one cub that is fighting for its life in the hospital. Seven of the 17 adults are from Namibia, and ten are from South Africa.