Kuno overpopulated? Govt says no worry, experts differ

As 12 South African cheetahs reached Kuno-Palpur National Park (KNP), the total tally of cheetahs reached 20 in India. Bhupendra Yadav, Union of Environment,

Published: 20th February 2023 07:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th February 2023 07:51 AM   |  A+A-

Dozen more cheetahs for MP’s Kuno. (FilemPhoto)

Dozen more cheetahs for MP’s Kuno. (FilemPhoto)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: As 12 South African cheetahs reached Kuno-Palpur National Park (KNP), the total tally of cheetahs reached 20 in India. Bhupendra Yadav, Union of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, said the KNP landscape could sustain cheetah population up to 40, and the government is striving to achieve this population viability. The minister counted the buffer area, which is spread over 6500 sqkm dotted with 53 villages, that can open the potential gate for human-wildlife conflict.   

It raises the question about the carrying capacity of the KNP which has core area of around 748 sq. km area. The ‘Action Plan for Cheetah Introduction (APCI)’ report, which was published in January 2022, assessed the carrying capacity based on the existing prey base as 21. However, the official claim of taking the population of cheetah up to 40 in the whole Kuno landscape couldn’t going down better with experts. 

Different research papers show that free-ranging carnivore like cheetah requires at least 80 sq. km to a maximum up to 130 sq.km. “My assessment, which is based on the size of the park and suitable habitation for cheetahs, is that the carrying capacity would not be more than 10-11 cheetahs,” says cheetah project mastermind MK Ranjitsinh, the country’s foremost conservationist and the man behind the cheetah introduction project.  Some say that the government has not invested in other selected sites in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan which made them to give such inflated statements. Other sites, where government had to invest to create metapopulation of cheetahs. 

Even the APCI report states that ‘managing different site populations as a metapopulation enhanced their chances for long term survival, as well as to maintain genetic diversity’.  As per our plan, Mukundara Tiger Reserve is supposed to be developed as breeding centre with five cheetah but no effort has been made so far,” said a scientist. Though the government has announced Rs 10 crore for fencing-related work in Gandhi Sagar- Bhainsrorgarh Wildlife Sanctuary complex (MP).

This fund has been diverted from an afforestation project CAMPA. SP Yadav, member secretary National Tiger Conservation Authority, who also led the Project Cheetah said that this fund is yet to be released to start fencing work. “Once the KNP reaches its viable population of 40 cheetahs, then we will translocate it to other locations,” said SP Yadav. He also downplayed the Kuno landscape’s human-wildlife conflict, saying that state government will compensate loss of people if cheetah either attack them or their livestock. Statements of the government is showing a misplaced priority which rattle experts.


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