Rampant poaching at Kuno raises questions about cheetahs' safety
J. S. Chouhan was replaced by his junior Aseem Srivastav, a seasoned IFS officer from the 1988 batch. Chouhan has been shifted to the production department, which was handled by Srivastav so far
Kuno National Park (KNP) located in the Chambal division of Madhya Pradesh has became the centre of attention globally since the world’s first ‘cheetah translocation’ project was executed on September 17 last year.
The ambitious ‘Project Cheetah’ added to the rich history of forest and wildlife of the tiger state -- Madhya Pradesh.
The death of eight cheetahs, especially adult felines Tejas and Suraj within the span of one week and the apprehensions raised over the ‘radio collar’ (electronic device to monitor cheetahs and their behavior) made headlines globally again last week.
Following this, the Madhya Pradesh government removed the seniormost Indian Forest Service officer J. S. Chouhan from the post of Chief Wildlife Warden and Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, without mentioning any reason.
J. S. Chouhan was replaced by his junior Aseem Srivastav, a seasoned IFS officer from the 1988 batch. Chouhan has been shifted to the production department, which was handled by Srivastav so far.
Highly placed sources told IANS that after taking charge, Srivastava along with other senior forest officers visited Kuno a couple of days back to review the health situation of the cheetahs.
The sources said that the radio collars from five out of the 10 cheetahs moving in the larger enclosures have been removed.
The authorities claimed that intense monitoring is being done at Kuno to ensure that ‘Project Cheetah’ is successful and the big cats can run on Indian soil again after decades.
But at the same time, attention also needs to be paid to the past incidents in Kuno as 136 cases under the Wildlife and Forest Protection Act, including a dozen regarding poaching, were registered at Kuno in 2021 alone.
RTI reports available with IANS revealed that until eight months before the Namibian and South African cheetahs were introduced in Kuno , the state forest department had registered 12 cases of “illegal poaching”.
In the second batch, 12 South African cheetahs were released on February 18 this year.
Of the total 136, the highest 39 cases were registered regarding illegal cutting of trees in the Kuno forest range, while a total 37 incidents of fire were reported between January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021, an RTI report revealed.
The report claimed that 12 cases were registered about “illegal poaching” in the same period. In its reply, the forest department has used the words “illegal poaching”.
As per the RTI report, at least 10 cases were registered regarding illegal transportation, while four cases of trespassing in Kuno were registered. The reports also suggested that a total Rs 51,62,145 were spent on controlling fire incidents in 2021.
IANS could not get the same report for 2022, but at least a dozen camera traps went missing from inside Kuno just a week before the first batch of cheetahs arrived in September last year.
The officials had then suspected that the cameras were likely stolen by poachers, raising fears about security at Kuno and the safety of the cheetahs.