One more cheetah dies at Kuno National Park


11:18 AM

1 min read
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What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in news?
  • Cheetah in India
  • How did cheetahs go extinct in India?
  • What is Cheetah Reintroduction Plan/Project Cheetah?
  • Death of Cheetah
  • Why did the cheetahs die?
  • Were these unfortunate cheetah deaths unexpected?

Why in news?

  • Shaurya, a cheetah that was translocated from Namibia, passed away at the Kuno National Park.
    • The cheetah was part of a male coalition and died inside its enclosure.
    • Kuno National Park is located in Madhya Pradesh’s Sheopur district.
  • Shaurya is the seventh one to die among the 20 Namibian cheetahs since a coalition of cheetahs were first released into the park in September 2022.

Cheetah in India

  • In India, the cheetah population used to be fairly widespread. The animal was found from Jaipur and Lucknow in the north to Mysore in the south, and from Kathiawar in the west to Deogarh in the eas
  • The cheetah was officially declared extinct by the Indian government in 1952.

How did cheetahs go extinct in India?

  • Over-hunting was a major contributing factor for the cheetah’s extinction.
  • The decimation of its relatively narrow prey base species and the loss of its grassland-forest habitat also played a role.
  • India’s emphasis on agriculture – which included acquiring and parcelling off grassland, led to a decline in the cheetah’s habitat.

Cheetah Reintroduction Plan/Project Cheetah

  • Background
    • Discussions to bring the Cheetah back to India were initiated in 2009 by the Wildlife Trust of India.
    • Under the ‘Action Plan for Reintroduction of Cheetah in India’, 50 cheetahs will be brought from African countries to various national parks over 5 years.
  • About
    • The aim of the project has been to reintroduce the feline species to its former habitat in India after they were declared extinct in 1952.
    • Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh has been selected as the most suitable site for Cheetah reintroduction.
  • Reintroduction of Cheetah
    • In September 2022, PM Modi released a coalition of cheetahs into the Kuno National Park.
      • Eight cheetahs, five of which are female, were flown from Namibia to Gwalior.
      • It was the first intercontinental transfer of wild cats into India since independence.
    • Later, in February 2023, 12 South African cheetahs were released into enclosures inside Kuno National Park.
  • Significance of Cheetah reintroduction
    • Besides conserving the big cat, the initiative in itself is a boon to the ecosystem.
    • In saving Cheetahs, it is necessary to save not just its prey base (including certain threatened species), but also other endangered species of grasslands.

Death of Cheetah

  • So far, seven of the cheetahs which came from Africa have died. Five died while still in captivity and two in the wild.
  • Additionally, three of the four cubs have died and the only remaining cub is being hand reared as its mother has rejected it.

Why did the cheetahs die?

  • There have been a variety of reasons and causes attributed to the deaths of the seven adults and three cubs.
  • Role of Radio collars
    • Radio collars are not the underlying reason for the deaths of any of these cats, at least that is the officially stated position.
    • One needs to determine if the African cheetahs are susceptible to certain insects and parasites in India, and if the collars provide a micro-environment conducive for these to thrive.
  • Other factors
    • The first cheetah which died is said to have perished due to a renal condition.
    • One of the females died when authorities attempted to get the cheetah to mate inside the enclosure.
    • Three of the four cubs born in India are reported to have died due to heatwave conditions.
    • One of the males is reported to have died due to cardio-pulmonary failure but what caused it (the ultimate cause), has still not been determined.
    • The last three deaths occurred during the monsoon.
  • Final verdict
    • While there have been several conflicting reports regarding the cause of their deaths, no definitive cause has been shared in the public domain.

Were these unfortunate cheetah deaths unexpected?

  • Cheetah Project anticipated high mortality
    • The Cheetah Project did anticipate high mortality.
    • The criteria for the project’s short-term success was only 50% survival of the introduced cheetah for the first year. That would be 10 out of 20.
  • Project overestimated Kuno’s carrying capacity for cheetahs
    • A number of experts pointed out that this project had overestimated Kuno’s carrying capacity for cheetahs.
      • Hence, the MP government set a six-month deadline for readying Gandhi-sagar, in the Chambal river valley in Mandsaur and Nimach districts, for the cheetahs.
      • There is also talk about moving a few animals from Kuno to the safety of an 80-sq-km fenced area in Rajasthan’s Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve.

Q1) What is carrying capacity of an ecosystem?

The carrying capacity of an ecosystem is the maximum population size that can be supported indefinitely by the available resources and services of that ecosystem. Carrying capacity is also known as the "maximum load" by population biologists. 

Q2) What is Kuno National Park?

 Kuno National Park is a wildlife sanctuary and national park in Madhya Pradesh, India. It's located in the northern part of the Vindhyachal mountain range in the Sheopur district. The park is named after the Kuno River, a tributary of the Chambal.

Source: One more cheetah dies at Kuno National Park; toll rises to seven | The Hindu | India Today | Indian Express