Two female cheetahs – part of the eight brought from Namibia to re-introduce the big cat in India’s forests – have been released into a bigger enclosure in Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park on Monday after completing a mandatory quarantine period of at least 30 days, divisional forest officer PK Verma told news agency ANI.
All eight were initially kept in smaller enclosures to help them acclimatise and as part of an international protocol – that wild animals must be isolated for a month before and after being shifted to a different country in order to prevent the spread of any infectious virus.
Eight cheetahs – three males and five females – were flown in from Africa as part of the government’s efforts to re-establish the speedy carnivore in India.The species was declared extinct in India in 1952 after the last surviving individual was slaughtered by hunters.
Yesterday’s release came nine days after a male – Oban – was allowed into the larger enclosure and 11 days after brothers Freddie and Elton were also shifted. The remaining four – three females and a male – will be moved soon. The females were shifted after a leopard living in the larger enclosure was relocated.
DFO Verma said last week that a team of experts had been called in as the animal ‘has been dodging forest officials for the past four months’.Madhya Pradesh’s principal chief conservator of forests, JS Chauhan said this month the cheetahs were ‘adapting to the(ir) new home very well’.
This was underlined by the brothers – Freddie and Elton – making their first kill within 24 hours of their release. The two hunted down and killed a spotted deer.”We are enthralled and happy… Elton and Freddie are killing prey and enjoying the bigger enclosure without any stress. Now, Oban has been released.”
The top forest official said the cheetahs’ progress was being monitored by high-res cameras positioned at various places across the larger 98-acre enclosure. Each animal has also been fitted with radio collars to track its movements and these are monitored day and night.