Former Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh Monday alleged that the National Tiger Conservation Authority's statement attributing the death of cheetahs at Kuno National Park to "natural causes" was a political one intended at "whitewashing management failures and it mocks conservation science".
The Congress general secretary's remarks come a day after the NTCA, in a statement released by the Environment Ministry on Sunday, said preliminary analysis of Cheetah mortalities at Kuno National Park point to natural causes. Of the 20 translocated cheetahs from South Africa and Namibia, death of five adult animals have been reported from the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh, till date.
"As per the preliminary analysis by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the apex body entrusted with the implementation of Project Cheetah, all mortalities are due to natural causes," the statement said. "There are reports in the media attributing these Cheetah deaths to other reasons including their radio collars etc. Such reports are not based on any scientific evidence but are speculation and hearsay," it said.
Reacting to the statement, Ramesh alleged, "Predictably the prime minister must have intervened and got the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to issue this statement attributing all eight cheetah deaths so far at Kuno to 'natural' causes." "The statement is clearly a political one, intended to whitewash management failures and mocks conservation science," he said in a tweet.
There appears to be enough evidence to expose the NTCA statement, Ramesh said. In its statement, the ministry also said several steps have been planned to support the cheetah project, including the establishment of a Cheetah Research Centre with facilities for rescue, rehabilitation, capacity building, and interpretation.
Male cheetah Suraj, translocated from South Africa, died at the Kuno National Park in Sheopur on Friday, while another translocated male cheetah Tejas died on Tuesday. Some experts on the cheetah project said that some recent deaths could be due to an infection caused by radio collars though that is highly unusual and collars have been used in wildlife conservation in India for over two decades. Other experts, however, said only the post-mortem report will determine the exact cause.