Wildlife & Biodiversity

DTE Exclusive: Two Namibian cheetahs released into the wild at Kuno National Park

Oban and Asha have gone only half a kilometre from the boma or enclosure they had been housed in since the past 6 months

By Shuchita Jha
Published: Saturday 11 March 2023
DTE Exclusive: Two Namibian cheetahs released into the wild at Kuno National Park
Oban, the male cheetah that has been released into the wild today. Photo: Cheetah Conservation Fund Oban, the male cheetah that has been released into the wild today. Photo: Cheetah Conservation Fund

Two cheetahs — Oban (male) and Asha (female) — were released into the wild from their five square kilometre enclosure in the Kuno National Park (KNP) March 11, 2023 almost seven months since they were first brought to India from Namibia September 17, 2022.

The two have adapted well to KNP’s environment and have been hunting on their own. The park authorities, in a conversation with Down To Earth, said the two are well adapted to the new environment and will be able to fend for themselves in the wild.

“We have to release all cheetahs into the wild and were just waiting for the right time. Since these two were doing well in the enclosure, we decided to release them first,” said Divisional Forest Officer of KNP, Prakash Verma. “We first captured Oban in the morning and released him, then trapped Asha in the afternoon and released her.”

The cheetahs have satellite collars and the park authorities will monitor them vigilantly in the initial days.

“We still need to keep an eye on them to prevent them from wandering into the villages outside Kuno. Today, they only went up to half a kilometre from the enclosure. We also need to see how they will adapt to living with leopards as so far, they have not encountered any since the enclosure was leopard-free,” he said.

Five-year-old Oban is a second-generation, wild-born cub. He was born to a rehabilitated female at Erindi Private Game Reserve of Namibia in March 2018. His mother was also born there and then returned to the wild by Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), an international non-profit working for cheetah conservation.

Asha was around 3.5 years old when she was brought to India last year. She is a wild-born female captured on a private farm in Namibia by CCF in July 2022. She was released in CCF’s property thereafter.

Earlier, the park authorities were planning to release the male coalition of Elton and Freddie, twin cheetahs aged 5.5 years (on arrival) who were also brought to India as part of the first batch of eight cheetahs from Namibia.

In Namibia, they were living wild on CCF’s 58,000-hectare private reserve near Otjiwarongo since July 2021. But since the two could not be captured together for release into the wild, the park authorities decided on Oban and Asha.

“We tried to capture them but since they could not be trapped, we did not want to attempt again as it would have just stressed out the animals, which is not conducive for their health. Since they have formed a coalition, it would not have been wise to break them up by releasing one of them into the wild and keeping the other one inside,” Verma added.

The 12 cheetahs brought to KNP from South Africa earlier this year are also doing well in the new environment.

In the meantime, Sasha, the 4.5-year-old female who suffered from renal failure, is gradually recovering.

“She is still in quarantine as her treatment is still going on. She is doing better than before and we hope she is able to recover completely. But as long as the treatment continues, she will be under observation until the vets give us the green signal,” Verma said.

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