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MP: 250 chital deer herded for cheetahs

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New Delhi, Aug 09: The Forest department has herded 250 chital or spotted deer as the prey into the enclosure meant for cheetahs being brought to Madhya Pradesh's Kuno-Palpur National Park (KNP) from Africa shortly, a senior official said on Monday.

MP: 250 chital deer herded for cheetahs

In a related development, India is close to signing agreements with the government of South Africa and private players there to buy some cheetahs costing around USD 3,000 to 4,000 from some game reserves in SA, according to officials.

6 'stressed' leopards enter cheetahs' enclosure in MP Kuno Park6 'stressed' leopards enter cheetahs' enclosure in MP Kuno Park

India had last month signed an MoU with the Namibian government for procuring the cheetahs in the KNP under the ambitious reintroduction project, a PTI report said.

"We have put more than 250 chitals (spotted deer or axis deer) in the 'soft release enclosure' meant to acclimatise the cheetahs at the KNP," MP Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) J S Chauhan told PTI.

The chital deer have been brought from the Pench Tiger Reserve and the Wildlife Sanctuary of Narsinghgarh in MP, he said.

He said 500 more chital deer will be placed in the enclosure for the cheetah to prey on. Preparations are on to provide a good environment to the cheetahs given the fact that these mammals are coming to India from far off Africa and would be stressed and fatigued after such a long journey.

"The cheetahs will be kept in the acclimatisation 'soft release enclosure' spread over 5 sq km for two to three months before being released into the wild," Chauhan said.

Another official said India is close to signing agreements with the government of South Africa (SA) and private game reserves in that country for procuring more cheetahs.

"We are also going to buy some cheetahs costing around USD 3,000 to 4,000 from private game reserves in SA," he said.

The official said most of the cheetahs are being donated for the KNP project.

"We have already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Namibian government for the import of cheetahs. In Namibia, the wildlife is under the direct control of the government like in India.

In SA, the government and private players control the wildlife. Efforts are underway to ink agreements with private game reserves in SA and the government of that country for procuring more cheetahs," he said. Wildlife Institute of India (WII) Dean Yadvendradev Vikramsinh Jhala reached Johannesburg on Saturday in connection with the KNP cheetah reintroduction project.

When asked about his return schedule, he told PTI that his "return ticket has not been booked yet".
Queried about when the cheetahs will reach India, Jhala said he didn't know.

"The government will take a call on it," he added amid speculation that the cheetahs may reach India by August 13.

Twelve cheetahs, including four to five females, have been vaccinated and quarantined for a month as part of preparations to airlift them to India, officials had said.

The KNP is spread over 750 square kilometres in MP's Chambal region.

Cheetahs went extinct in India in 1952 and the reintroduction project is now in its final stages with a few big cats set to be housed in KNP after being brought in from the southern parts of Africa.

The last cheetah in India died in 1947 in the Korea district in present-day Chhattisgarh, which was part of MP then, and the species was declared extinct in 1952.

The 'African Cheetah Introduction Project in India' was conceived in 2009 and a plan to introduce the big cat by November last year in KNP suffered a setback due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The KNP has a good prey base for cheetahs. Experts from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) are also okay with the choice of the area. MP was home to cheetahs earlier. Moreover, it has a good translocation record as tigers were successfully reintroduced in Panna in 2009," officials added.

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