On death of cheetahs in Kuno National Park, expert says ‘worst still to come’; What's the way forward?
A South African wildlife expert said the mortality rate of these cheetahs amid their reintroduction will see a spike in the coming months.
The death of two more cheetah cubs in the Kuno National Park raised worries over the future of Project Cheetah in India. The mortality rate of these cheetahs amid their reintroduction will see a spike in the coming months, South African wildlife expert Vincent van der Merwe told news agency PTI.
He added that there are chances that the mortality rate could shoot up to 50% in the first year. “We anticipate a 50 per cent mortality in the first year, we know that only 10 are going to survive the initial release period. There's going to be more than enough prey for them,” he said
Also read: Cub born to Namibian cheetah dies in Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park
According to him, the deaths will be higher as these big cats will try to establish territories and encounter leopards and tigers inside the national park. He further pointed out that the recent deaths were within the acceptable range, however, killing of female cheetah by males during courtship was uncalled for based on a team of experts who reviewed the project.
Merwe is closely associated with the Indian government's much vaunted project to repopulate cheetahs in the country.
How could India save cheetahs?
The wildlife expert suggested fencing the habitats to control giving access to resources to other animals and reduce overall threat to these reintroduced cheetahs.
He said that the reintroduction of cheetahs in an unfenced reserve was never successful. Africa tried it 15 times and failed.
Several experts, even the Supreme Court, have expressed concerns over lack of space and logistical support in Kuno park and have suggested shifting cheetahs to other sanctuaries.
Merwe recommended getting at least two to three cheetah to Mukundra Hills and let them breed there.
"Mukundra Hills is fully fenced. We know that cheetahs will do very well there. The only problem is that it's not fully stocked at the moment. So you'll have to bring in some black buck and chinkara. And when the fencing is completed at Nauradehi and Gandhisagar, we will have three fenced reserves and then we are absolutely winning," he said.
Death after relocation normal
The wildlife expert said that the death of cheetahs after their relocation is normal. However, their deaths outside of the fenced enclosures is where the real danger lies.
"That's where you can expect mortality due to hunting injury. The cheetahs, of course, will continue to establish territories and fight with each other and kill each other for territories and for access to females. They're going to encounter leopards. There are now tigers moving around in Kuno. The worst mortalities are still to come," he added.
He assured that the death of three adults and three cubs is completely normal and within the speculated mortality rate.
(With PTI inputs)