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Second cheetah death at MP’s Kuno within month raises questions over officials’ efficiency

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The death of another cheetah within a month has raised serious questions about the efficiency of officials at Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park (KNP).

The KNP lost yet another cheetah when the six-year-old male feline Uday died on Sunday. Uday, who was given this name just recently, was among the 12 cheetahs that were translocated from South Africa in a special Indian Air Force plane under ‘Project Cheetah’ on February 18.

The officials associated with the KNP said that the cheetah died a few hours after the sudden deterioration of health during the treatment and the exact reason for his death would be confirmed only after the postmortem is done. However, sources said that the feline was “highly stressed”.

The questions are also being raised because there was no report of ill health of Uday before Sunday.

According to the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department officials, the cheetah was found dull during the inspection in the morning on Sunday, following which the veterinarians alerted senior officials and it was taken out from the large enclosure for treatment.

IANS has learnt that ever since the first batch of eight cheetahs was released at KNP on September 17, there was infighting among state Forest Department officials due to one or another reasons. Sources claimed that the appointment of some senior officials at KNP was questioned within the department and the infighting had reached the state Forest Ministry.

Some senior forest officials were reshuffled recently – for instance, P.K. Sharma who was serving as DFO at KNP was transferred to Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR), while Rajneesh Singh who was DFO at Pench was transferred to the KNP.

More importantly, some wildlife activists had raised their concerns over the appointment of Uttam Sharma as Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF).

Madhya Pradesh-based wildlife activist Ajay Dube, seeking the attention of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), had warned that the life of translocated cheetahs “would be in danger”.

“The kind of activities (that) are happening, I am raising my concern that the life of cheetahs at KNP would be in danger,” Dube had mentioned in a letter written to Chief Minister Chouhan and the NTCA on September 22, just five days after eight Namibian cheetahs were released at KNP.

Talking to IANS on Sunday, Dube said: “Wildlife trained full-time director is vital for cheetah project because Uttam Sharma has proven to be inefficient. Transferred DFO Kuno P.K. Sharma should be relieved immediately and a thorough investigation is required on the death of two cheetahs.”

Some other wildlife activists also raised questions on why Uttam Sharma, who is an expert of forest, was given the role of wildlife expertise at three places – at KNP, as CCF of Gwalior and as head of the lion project. “We have to understand that forest and wildlife, both are different. Uttam Sharma is undoubtedly a renowned forest expert as he has been a professor also, but his appointment as a wildlife official has always remained under question. Three radio-collared tigers were killed during his appointment in Panna Tiger Reserve,” Dube said.

Earlier, a female Namibian cheetah Sasha died due to a kidney ailment at KNP on March 27.

A total of 20 cheetahs were translocated from Namibia and South Africa, of which two have died so far. In the first batch, eight cheetahs were brought from Namibia on September 17, and they were released at KNP enclosures by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his 72nd birthday.

Another 12 cheetahs were translocated from South Africa on February 18 this year and they were released at KNP by Union Forest Minister Bhupendra Yadav and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.


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