Take positive steps, don’t make it prestige issue: SC to Centre on Cheetah deaths

Additional solicitor general Aishwarya Bhati maintained during the hearing that the cheetahs died of natural causes and 50 per cent deaths on translocation was anticipated

Were those hoods on the African cheetahs at their introduction to Kuno prophetic of their fate in India? (Photo: NH library)
Were those hoods on the African cheetahs at their introduction to Kuno prophetic of their fate in India? (Photo: NH library)
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IANS

The Supreme Court on Thursday expressed concern over deaths of eight cheetahs at Madhya Pradesh's Kuno National Park in a span of four months as it asked the Centre to take some "positive steps" in this regard and called for an updated status report.

“Two more deaths last week. Why is this becoming a prestige issue? Please take some positive steps,” said a bench headed by Justice B.R. Gavai and comprising Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Prashant Kumar Mishra.

Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change Ministry, maintained that cheetahs died of natural causes and 50 per cent deaths on translocation was anticipated.

Suggesting the government to consider if cheetahs could be relocated to other locations, like in Jawai National Park in Rajasthan, the court called for updated status reports and posted the matter for further hearing on August 1.

Five adult cheetahs among the 20 brought into Kuno from Namibia and South Africa and three of the four cubs born in Kuno have died since March.

Wildlife experts suspect that the two most recently-deceased male cheethas - Tejas and Suraj - suffered maggot infections due to their radio collars (fitted with GPS). Both Tejas and Suraj, which died last week, had similar organ damage. As per experts, while the radio collar may not be the fatal issue, it can be a contributing factor and it must be addressed.

Notably, every cheetah in Kuno is fitted with an African Wildlife Tracking (AWT) collar that provides location during movement and their behaviour.

A total of 20 cheetahs were introduced at Kuno National Park in two phases. In the first phase, eight cheetahs were translocated from Namibia and they were released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 17 last year. In the second phase, 12 cheetahs were brought from South Africa on February 18.

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