Bhopal: Even as the cheetah project has achieved many milestones in the first year of its introduction in India, the authorities concerned have now focused on importing cheetahs not developing thick winter coats, found to be suitable to Indian conditions, in the coming year.
The African cheetahs in Kuno National Park have demonstrated natural hunting skills and adaptation to their new habitat which itself is a milestone in the cheetah project, keeping the hope on the project alive, a senior field officer of the park said on Saturday.
"We are confident of the success of the cheetah introduction project, based on our experience of handling different situations, some of them most challenging ones", the field officer said, unwilling to be quoted since he was not authorised to speak to the media.
The cheetah introduction project, first of its kind in the world, was launched on September 17 last year with the translocation of eight cheetahs from Namibia to Kuno National Park.
Later in February this year, 12 more cheetahs were brought to the park from South Africa under the project.
However, six cheetahs have died within a span of three months for various reasons, bringing down the number of cheetahs surviving in Kuno to 14, of whom seven are males and the remaining are females.
Of the four cubs born to a cheetah couple in Kuno, three died of malnutrition and dehydration.
The lone surviving female cub is now abandoned by her mother and being reared by the Kuno officials.
"All the 14 surviving cheetahs have been currently kept in quarantine enclosures for their regular health examinations following the death of six cheetahs. They will be released in the wild soon", another forest officer of Kuno said.
The lone surviving cub is also doing fine in a quarantine enclosure, being reared by Kuno officials.
Meanwhile, the cheetah project head S P Yadav said in Delhi on Saturday that in the second year of the project, focus would be given to import cheetahs that do not develop thick winter coats, said to be cause of maggot infestation leading to death of three cheetahs in Kuno.
Cheetahs that do not develop thick winter coats are found suitable to Indian conditions as some felines in Kuno have demonstrated, he said.
Mr Yadav said that Gandhi Sagar wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh is being developed as the second new habitat for the next batch of cheetahs to be brought from South Africa by the end of this year.