MP’s cheetah project head transferred after steering panel meeting
Madhya Pradesh chief wildlife warden and head of cheetah project in Kuno National Park, Jasbir Singh Chauhan, has been transferred following the deaths of five cheetahs in the park. The deaths have raised questions about the effectiveness of monitoring the cheetahs and the cause of death, with some attributing it to radio collar abrasions. The steering committee in charge of the project has decided to conduct a medical examination of all surviving cheetahs.
Madhya Pradesh chief wildlife warden and head of cheetah project in Kuno National Park, Jasbir Singh Chauhan was transferred on Monday, a government order said, not elaborating on reasons for his transfer.
The transfer came hours after the meeting in Delhi of the steering committee in charge of the project , called to discuss the deaths of two cheetahs last week, taking the total deaths of the translocated cheetahs to five (of 20), with three India-born cubs of a translocated female cheetah also dying.
Chauhan has been transferred as principal chief conservator of forest (production) and Indian Forest Services officer Aseem Shrivastava has been appointed the new chief wildlife warden in his place, the order added.
The deaths of Tejas, 6, and Suraj, 8, both translocated from South Africa, due to alleged septicaemia after abrasions caused by radio collars have prompted a rash of questions on the effectiveness of the monitoring of the cheetahs at the Kuno National Park in Sheopur district, where they were housed with much fanfare last year as India embarked on an ambitious effort to reintroduce in the wild, a species that went extinct in the country XX years ago. The cheetahs were brought in from South Africa and Namibia.
The environment ministry has denied the radio-collar-infection theory, attributing the deaths to “natural causes” but the chairman of the steering committee, Rajesh Gopal said last week that the radio collar caused abrasion of the skin, which led to maggots infesting Suraj. The wet and humid weather didn’t help and Suraj ended up with septicaemia, he added.
The radio collars are supposed to be skin-friendly and the task force has been trying to find out the reason behind abrasions that led to the septic infection. Chauhan has said he has no idea how the infection happened and that all protocols recommended by the steering committee were followed.
According to an officer who attended the meeting in New Delhi, the steering committee has decided to conduct a medical examination of all surviving cheetahs after reports of the infection on the neck, under the radio collars.
“All cheetahs will be recaptured and medically assessed. The decision to take off the collar or change it will depend on how many cheetahs are infected,” added this person.
“The long spell of rains is a reason behind dermatitis that attract flies and its aggravation leads to septicaemia,” he added.
Adrian Tordiffe, a veterinarian from South Africa, and an expert who has been advising the steering committee said on Sunday that he and other South African experts were in the dark. He also claimed, early on Monday that he was not invited for the steering committee’s meeting despite asking to be present. He was eventually asked to attend.
After the meeting Tordiffe said: “I was called at the last minute . The international experts were assured of their active involvement in the steering committee’s discussions. And that there would be improved communication between the Indian and South African veterinarians,” he added.