Recently, the use of radio collars in the cheetah reintroduction project in Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh, India, has resulted in unexpected setbacks, with cheetahs experiencing neck wounds and septicaemia, an infection of the blood by bacteria.
GS III: Conservation
Dimensions of the Article:
- Radio Collars
- Challenges Associated with Radio Collars in Wildlife Monitoring
- Cheetah Reintroduction Project in India
- Purpose and Usage: Radio collars are employed to track and monitor animals in their natural habitats.
- Components: These collars consist of a small radio transmitter attached to a specially designed collar.
- Data Collection: Radio collars provide valuable data on various aspects of animal behavior, migration patterns, and population dynamics.
- Enhanced Technology: Some collars are equipped with GPS or accelerometers, adding more detailed information to the collected data.
- Animal-Friendly Design: Collars are carefully designed to be lightweight and comfortable for the animals, ensuring minimal disruption to their natural behaviors.
- Risk Management: Researchers and conservationists must address potential risks and challenges associated with radio collars, such as injuries or infections to the animals, to ensure their well-being during the monitoring process.
Challenges Associated with Radio Collars in Wildlife Monitoring
- Cheetah Deaths and Injuries: Two cheetahs in the Kuno reintroduction project died due to suspected septicaemia from festering neck wounds caused by radio collars. Other cheetahs, including Oban, Elton, and Freddie, also exhibited similar injuries.
- Concerns about Collar Use: The incidents have raised concerns about the effectiveness and safety of using radio collars in the cheetah reintroduction project.
- Potential Health Risks: Studies on watch wearers and pet dogs have shown that wearing something on the body for an extended period can lead to health issues. Watch wearers had higher bacteria presence on their wrists, potentially leading to sepsis. Dogs with collars can develop dermatitis, hot spots, and pressure necrosis.
- Weight Considerations: Globally, the guideline is to keep radio collar weight below 3% of the animal’s body weight. Modern collars for wild cats typically weigh around 400g, suitable for cheetahs weighing between 20 kg and 60 kg. However, fitting collars on cheetahs, especially younger ones, can be challenging due to their small necks.
- Impact on Movement: A study criticized the collar weight rule, revealing that collar forces during movement can exceed the collar’s weight. The forces exerted by collars were found to be up to 18 times the collar’s weight for a cheetah.
- Environmental Adaptations: African cheetahs may be more susceptible to local pathogens due to differences in immunity and environmental conditions. Historical data suggests Indian cheetahs did not wear collars during the monsoon and may have adapted differently to the local climate.
- Challenges in Monitoring: Tracking, immobilizing, and assessing cheetahs for neck injuries pose challenges and potential delays, leading to uncertainties about re-collaring cheetahs during the monsoon.
- Animal Well-being: The absence of a clear roadmap for the next monsoon raises questions about ensuring the well-being of cheetahs and the need for collar use in the future.
Cheetah Reintroduction Project in India
- The project aims to restore the population of cheetahs, declared extinct in India in 1952.
- The formal commencement was on September 17, 2022.
- 20 radio-collared cheetahs were translocated from South Africa and Namibia to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.
- 4 cubs were born to one of the relocated cheetahs from Namibia in March 2023.
- Cheetahs underwent quarantine and then moved to larger acclimatization enclosures.
- Currently, 11 cheetahs roam freely, while 5 are in quarantine.
- 8 cheetahs have died in Kuno National Park due to natural causes.
- Preliminary analysis by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) suggests natural deaths unrelated to radio collars.
Collaborators and Challenges
- NTCA, Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), and cheetah experts from Namibia and South Africa are part of the project.
- Challenges include monitoring, protection, and management of the reintroduced cheetah population.
Investigation and Improvements
- International cheetah experts and veterinary doctors are investigating the cause of cheetah deaths.
- National experts are reviewing protocols, protection, management, veterinary facilities, training, and capacity building.
- Efforts underway to establish a Cheetah Research Center, expand forest areas, provide additional staff, establish a Cheetah Protection Force, and create a second home in Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary.
- The government is committed to conserving the reintroduced cheetah population and ensuring its long-term success.
-Source: Indian Express