Finally! Five experts to leave for Namibia February 17 to finalise cheetah translocation
Trip to Namibia was postponed first by floods and then, omicron; experts to return on February 23
A team of five experts will leave for Namibia February 17, 2022, to finalise details on translocating African cheetahs to India. The tour had to be postponed in September 2021 due to floods and the subsequent omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The team will comprise-
- Rakesh Kumar Jagenia, deputy inspector-general of forests of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change
- Amit Mallick, inspector-general of National Tiger Conservation Authority of India
- YV Jhala, dean of Wildlife Institute of India
- JS Chouhan, principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) and chief wildlife warden, Madhya Pradesh
- Ashok Barnwal, principal secretary of the of the forest department, Madhya Pradesh
‘Amit Mallick will be leading the team. The visit was postponed two-three times, first due to floods, then due to omicron,’ Chouhan told Times of Nation. The team will return to India February 23.
Chouhan added that the tour will lead to the finalising of source and destinations of the project and the timeline to carry out the inter-continental translocation.
The team will also finalise how to carry out the inter-continental translocation and the port on which they will arrive.
‘All details need to be chalked out to ensure a smooth translocation. Once we decide which port to bring the cheetahs to, we will have to decide how to bring them to Kuno, via air or by road,’ Chouhan added.
Read Times of Nation’s coverage of the cheetah translocation project
The cheetah translocation project aims to bring African cheetahs to India, where the Indian cheetah was declared extinct in 1952. India had tried to get Asiatic cheetahs from Iran but was refused. According to a recent statement by an Iranian government official, there are only 12 Asiatic cheetahs left in the world.
The project was first floated in 2009 during the then-United Progressive Alliance government. But it was only in January 2020 that the Supreme Court agreed to the translocation of cheetahs from Africa to India. The cheetahs will be sourced mainly from South Africa and Namibia.
Jhala told DTE that this was an official visit to finalise the details of the project.
‘It is a week-long tour to Namibia. We will go to Windhoek and visit the Cheetah Conservation Fund to iron out the details. It is an official meeting between the governments of the two countries,’ he said.
The Cheetah Conservation Fund is an international organisation dedicated to saving the cheetah in the wild.
‘This is a visit to fine tune the details. We will talk about the source area, the number and sex of the cheetahs to be brought. We will see if the veterinary procedures for the translocation have taken place and discuss our planning and preparations for the big move, along with the timeline,’ Chouhan said.
According to media reports, the cheetahs will be brought to the Kuno-Palpur National Park in Madhya Pradesh’s Sheopur and Morena districts. They will be temporarily housed in an enclosure to acclamatise them to their surroundings.
Chouhan added, ‘Scientists from South Africa had suggested some changes in the landscape of the Kuno-Palpur National Park to accommodate cheetahs, which have been done. We will inform them about our preparedness and seek more suggestions. Since we have never managed cheetahs, we will need all the possible guidance form the experts there.’
The landscaping changes made in Kuno include the removal of thorny trees.
Prakash Kumar Varma, divisional forest officer, Kuno-Palpur National Park had told DTE in December that they had finished the construction of six watchtowers and a 12-km long fence to keep away predators was also on the verge of completion.
The fence encloses an area of about six square kilometres. Its length is 12 km and its height is 12 feet (three feet underground and nine feet above the ground).
He had added that the authorities of the national park had introduced palatable grasses like marble grass and themeda grass as well as some wild legumes, removing thorny bushes and other invasive species from the path of the cheetahs to allow them to hunt easily.
Varma had also told DTE that authorities had set up surveillance cameras to monitor the cheetahs. ‘It is important to monitor them to see if they are adapting well to the new environment,’ he had said.
Varma told DTE February 15, ‘The work of laying water pipelines and internal fencing was delayed due to rains in January. About 70 per cent of it has been done. We will finish it off by mid-March.”
He said his team had made changes to the vegetation and landscape changes like creating artificial ponds had been stopped. They will now create watering holes for the cheetahs instead.
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