The Supreme Court on Monday said it had no reason to disbelieve the Union government’s efforts to stop the deaths of cheetahs in Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park, The Indian Express reported.
A bench of Justices BR Gavai, PS Narasimha and PK Mishra said they do not have the expertise on the issue and that it was better to let wildlife experts deal with it.
The judges, however, observed that the number of deaths in the park were not low and even the general public was concerned with the developments, according to Bar and Bench.
Twenty cheetahs were translocated to the Kuno National Park from South Africa and Namibia. However, in a span of less than five months, nine cheetahs, including three cubs born in India, have died in the park.
Several cheetah experts from South Africa and Namibia had told the Supreme Court that the deaths of some of the felines could have been prevented by better monitoring and timely veterinary care.
In letters to the Supreme Court, the experts raised concerns about the management of the translocation project. The experts said that they had been “ignored” and only used as “window dressing”.
During Monday’s hearing, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati said that while the deaths of the cheetahs were unfortunate, they were expected, reported The Hindu.
She also blamed the hot summer weather for the deaths, saying that the cheetahs are developing a “winter cover” – a thick coat of fur – in anticipation of African winter, which led to infection.
Justice PS Narasimha asked whether this was not anticipated by the government.
The court also took note of a letter written to it by four South African wildlife experts. The additional solicitor general, however, said that it was said to have been written by four experts but signed by only one.
“What steps did you take when you brought them here?” Narasimha asked. “What was your vision when translocating them?”
Bhati said the remaining cheetahs have been treated and are being monitored closely by experts.
Also read: The dark clouds over India’s cheetah project