The Kuno National Park (KNP) has become the centre of attention across the world ever since the world’s maiden ‘cheetah relocation’ project was executed there beginning September 17 last year. KNP is located in the Chambal division of Madhya Pradesh. The ambitious ‘Project Cheetah’ being executed in the national park added to the rich history of wildlife and forests in tiger state Madhya Pradesh.
However, the death of eight cheetahs within the span of one week has made global headlines yet again, last week. Adult felines Tejas and Suraj were among the cheetahs that died in KNP, raising apprehensions over the necessity of fitting ‘radio collars’ on their necks. These radio collars are electronic devices used to monitor the cheetahs, including their movement and behaviour.
In follow-up action, the Madhya Pradesh government removed J.S. Chouhan, the seniormost Indian Forest Service officer from the post of Chief Wildlife Warden and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests. No reasons was attributed to this move. Assem Srivastava, an experienced IFS officer from the 1988 batch, replaced J.S. Chouhan, his senior. Chouhan has now been shifted to the production department, which was being handled by Srivastava till now.
According to sources, Srivastava went to KNP a few days ago, along with other senior forest officers. He reviewed the health situation of the cheetahs there.Sources also disclosed that the radio collars of five out of the 10 cheetahs moving in the larger enclosures have been removed, as of now.
As part of the second batch, 12 South African cheetahs were released into KNP on February 18, 2023.
Out of the total 136 cases of poaching, 39 (the highest) were regarding illegal felling of tress in the Kuno forest range. Additionally, a total of 37 incidents of fire were reported between January 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021, according to an RTI report. The same report stated that 12 cases related to “illegal poaching” were registered in the same period. The forest department itself has used the words “illegal poaching” in its reply.
According to the RTI report, four cases of trespassing in KNP and atleast 10 cases regarding illegal transportation were registered. A total of Rs 51,62,145 were spent on controlling fire incidents in 2021, the report revealed.