Severe infection was detected in two cheetahs after their radio collars were removed in Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park, The Indian Express reported on Monday.
The two cheetahs – Gaurav and Shaurya – were among the six cheetahs that were brought back to their enclosure as part of a plan to prevent further fatalities.
The radio collars of the other four cheetahs have also been removed by veterinarians and wildlife experts from Namibia and South Africa, according to PTI.
“Some cheetahs had small lesions, but the male coalition of Namibian brothers Gaurav and Shaurya had a severe infection,” an unidentified wildlife official told The Indian Express. “We have stocked up the medicines for them and are discussing ways to ensure that the problem of radio collars doesn’t resurface. There may be an issue with the design which will be discussed.”
Twenty cheetahs were translocated to the park from South Africa and Namibia. However, in less than four months, eight have died, including those born in India. Several wildlife experts had said that some of the cheetahs could have died due to infection caused by radio collars.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, however, had rejected the claims, saying that they were not based on scientific evidence and that “all mortalities are due to natural causes”.
On July 16, former Madhya Pradesh’s chief wildlife warden JS Chauhan had told The Indian Express that he was considering removing radio collars from 10 cheetahs and monitor them for any infections. He was removed from his position the next day.
The cheetahs were reintroduced to India seven decades after the species was declared extinct in the country. The cheetah was officially declared extinct by the Indian government in 1952. The wild cats were last recorded in the country in 1948, when three cheetahs were shot in the Sal forests in Chhattisgarh’s Koriya District.
In February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that India has a chance to restore an element of biodiversity that had been lost long ago by reintroducing the felines.
However, experts say that India does not have the habitat or prey species for African cheetahs and that the project may not fulfil its aim of grassland conservation.
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