Bhopal: Female cheetah `Asha’, one of the big cats translocated to India from Namibia, has wandered outside the Kuno National Park (KNP) in Madhya Pradesh once again, a forest official said on Friday.
Five-year-old Asha, known as `F1′ before she was renamed, strayed out of the park’s buffer zone on Wednesday evening but now she seemed to be on her way back, said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The KNP’s core area is spread over 748 sq km while its buffer zone covers an area of 487 sq km.
”Asha strayed out of the buffer zone on Wednesday evening. She kept on advancing farther away, but on Thursday it started returning. She is now close to the buffer zone,” the official said.
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Asha had ventured out of the park in the first fortnight of April too, but returned on her own.
`Pavan’, a male cheetah, has sneaked out of the park twice this month. It was tranquilized and brought back on both occasions.
According to KNP officials, unlike Pavan, Asha does not like to dawdle in agricultural fields, and gets distracted if people are around. “We are monitoring her movements with the help of the radio collar fitted around her neck,” the forest official said.
Asha and Pavan are part of India’s ambitious efforts to revive the cheetah population in the country by translocating them from Namibia and South Africa.
Some wildlife experts believe that an individual cheetah needs a habitat of 100 sq km, and the KNP, which now has 18 translocated cheetahs (two animals have died so far) does not have enough space.
But another forest official said that it is difficult to determine how much area a cheetah exactly needs. Some literature on the subject states that a female cheetah needs a habitat of 400 sq km. “Nobody exactly knows how much space a cheetah needs as these animals became extinct in India seven decades ago. We are, in fact, still learning about their habits,” he said.
Deshdeep Saxena, a senior journalist who writes on wildlife issues, noted that at present only four of the translocated animals are out in the wild at the KNP, yet two of them ventured out.
”What will happen when three more Namibian and 11 South African cheetahs (who are currently in enclosures) will be set free,” he said. “There is a need to develop 4,000 sq km of landscape adjoining the KNP for the cheetahs,” said Saxena. Prime Minister Narendra Modi released the first group of eight cheetahs brought from Namibia into quarantine enclosures at the KNP on September 17 last year. Of them, one female cheetah died due to a kidney ailment.
The second lot of twelve cheetahs imported from South Africa was released on February 18. Of them, a male cheetah died due to cardiopulmonary failure.