Namibian cheetah’s death at Kuno National Park gets political colour in Madhya Pradesh

The Madhya Pradesh Congress questioned why a cheetah, whose renal health was possibly compromised since August 2022, was flown to India and released at the KNP by PM Modi

Published: 28th March 2023 09:34 PM  |   Last Updated: 28th March 2023 09:34 PM   |  A+A-

A cheetah after being released inside a special enclosure of the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh, September 17, 2022. (Photo | Prime Minister's Office)

Image of a cheetah at the Kuno National Park, used for representative purposes only. (File Photo)

By Express News Service

BHOPAL: The death of five-year-old female cheetah Sasha reportedly due to renal failure at Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park (KNP) on Monday, six months after it along with seven other Namibian cheetahs was released there in the presence of PM Narendra Modi on his 72nd birthday, is turning into a political issue in the state.

The MP Congress’s media wing head KK Mishra questioned why a cheetah, whose renal health was possibly compromised since August 2022, was flown to India and released at the KNP by PM Modi on his 72nd birthday. Tweeting the picture of the dead female cheetah, the Congress leader wrote, “This isn’t just the carcass of a female Cheetah, but also the carcass of a shameless event of the BJP government. On what basis was a Cheetah, already afflicted with health issues, selected to be flown to India? After humans now scam happening with animals too.” Mishra also claimed that the same Cheetah had undergone a surgery before being flown to India.

Piyush Babele, the media advisor to the MP Congress and state party president Kamal Nath, also raised the issue over Twitter. “This is the sad end of another event story of the Modi era. Full page advertisements were published in newspapers to mark the return of Cheetahs to India after 70 years and for days the success story of Cheetahs reintroduction dominated media headlines. The PM himself released the Cheetahs and now one of those Cheetahs has died.”

Meanwhile, the senior most MP forest department officer, the principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF) JS Chauhan, said on Tuesday that Sasha’s autopsy has established renal (kidney) failure as the cause of death. "Veterinary specialists in MP, in consultation with Namibian and South African veterinary experts, did their best to save Sasha’s life, but she couldn’t be saved as the kidney was permanently damaged. Even the top South African experts who came to KNP last month to oversee smooth shifting of 12 cheetahs on February 18, 2023, had acknowledged our best possible treatment,” Chauhan said.

ALSO READ | Kuno welcomes 12 more cheetahs, this time from South Africa   

Chauhan added that all the other 19 cheetahs (seven more that were brought from Namibia on September 17, 2022 and 12 that were trans-located from South Africa on February 18, 2023) are totally healthy at the KNP.

Meanwhile, Bhopal-based wildlife activist Ajay Dube said, “Senior officials of MP forest department should face the music over the incident. Before the cheetahs were brought to India, a huge sum of public money was spent on funding African trips of the state's forest minister and senior forest department officials, who had gone there to learn cheetah management. Why then was an ailing cheetah brought to India?”

According to the state forest department’s official statement released on Monday, Sasha was diagnosed with a severe kidney infection in January 2023 (four months after it was flown to KNP) and all possible medical treatment was administered to save the female cheetah. However, the medical treatment history shared by Namibia’s Cheetah Conservation Foundation with its Indian counterparts in January-February 2023, revealed that Sasha’s creatinine level as per the last blood test in Namibia on August 15, 2022 (a month before being flown to India) was over 400, which established that Sasha had renal problems even before being brought to KNP on September 17, 2022.

Timeline of Cheetahs at KNP

  • Cheetah, the fastest moving animal on earth, officially went extinct from the wilds of India 70 years ago.
  • Though the Cheetah Reintroduction Project in India was conceived in 2009, it had to wait till January 2020 for Supreme Court’s clearance to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) plea to bring African cheetahs.
  • Nine months later KNP was selected as the most ideal site, out of the six shortlisted sites in India.
  • The COVID-19 outbreak, particularly the Omicron variant driven third wave which originated from Africa in December-January 2021, delayed the first inter-continental translocation of cheetahs from Africa to India.
  • It was on September 17, 2022, that the first batch of 8 satellite collared and fully vaccinated cheetahs (five female and three males) were flown to KNP from Namibia and released into the small enclosures by PM Modi on his 72nd birthday.
  • While one of those eight cheetahs, female Sasha, died on Monday, four others have already been released in open jungles of KNP, while three females are awaiting their release in open jungles.
  • On February 18, 2023, the first batch of 12 South African cheetahs were flown into KNP and are presently undergoing their month long quarantine period.

India Matters


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