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Cheetahs at Kuno Park receive special ointment treatment to prevent deadly infection

The ointment, imported from South Africa, is being applied to all 13 adult cheetahs in the park to ensure their well-being during the rainy season.
Last Updated : 30 June 2024, 07:24 IST

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Sheopur, Madhya Pradesh: In an effort to protect the cheetah population at Kuno National Park (KNP) in Madhya Pradesh, a new initiative has been launched to apply foreign ointment to their fur, an official said.

This measure aims to prevent a recurrence of septicemia, a deadly bacterial infection that claimed the lives of three cheetahs last year.

The cursorial predators at the Kuno National Park, brought to India as part of a translocation project from South Africa and Namibia, are receiving Anti Ecto Parasite Medicine to combat the threat of septicemia.

The ointment, imported from South Africa, is being applied to all 13 adult cheetahs in the park to ensure their well-being during the rainy season.

"We have started applying the 'Anti Ecto Parasite Medicine' (anti maggot) imported from South Africa to the cheetahs by immobilising them with the onset of the rainy season," KNP director Uttam Sharma told PTI over phone on Sunday.

Despite facing setbacks in the past year, Kuno National Park remains committed to the conservation and preservation of cheetahs in India. The loss of three cheetahs to septicemia underscored the need for proactive measures to safeguard the remaining population.

"We are going to apply this medicine to the bodies of all 13 adult cheetahs in the KNP, spread over an area of 1,235 sq km including buffer zone in Sheopur district," he said, adding "the effect of the ointment lasts for three to four months".

However, he did not share details of the immunisation plan duration and the date it started but confirmed that the KNP lost three cheetahs to septicemia, caused by blood poisoning due to bacterial infection, last year.

As the monsoon season progresses, efforts to protect the cheetahs from environmental risks are paramount. The collaboration between wildlife experts, park officials, and meteorologists aims to ensure the well-being of the cheetahs amidst changing weather conditions.

Despite facing challenges in tranquilising the swift creatures for treatment, the dedicated team at KNP is determined to carry out the immunisation process efficiently.

The history-making reintroduction of cheetahs in India aims to revive the species, which was declared extinct in the country back in 1952. The last in the cat family had died in Koriya district of present-day Chhattisgarh, once part of MP, in 1947.

Last year's unfortunate incident of cheetah deaths due to septicemia underscored the importance of taking proactive measures to safeguard these magnificent animals.

KNP outright denied that the radio collar caused the septicemia the last time around.

"It was not the cause of the outbreak. It might have aggravated it," KNP director Sharma said.

"Last year, initially many experts doubted the radio collars caused the infection. But later the air was cleared," he said.

The fur of African cheetahs grows in June, July- August which is winter in the southern hemisphere. These months are hot, humid and rainy in the northern hemisphere, the official said.

"So, the hostile weather plus rain caused dampness in the thick fur of the cheetahs. They rubbed their bodies for relief and in the process wounded themselves last year," he added.

"No sooner, the blood oozes from the wound, the flies come in the picture and lay eggs in them and then come maggots which killed cheetahs in 48 hours last year," the official recalled.

Eight Namibian cheetahs - five female and three male - were released into quarantine enclosures at KNP on September 17, 2022, at a high-profile event in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief guest.

With the monsoon season already underway in Madhya Pradesh, the authorities are leaving no stone unturned to protect the cheetah population from potential health risks.

Sheopur has received 78.4 mm of rain against the normal rainfall of 77.6 mm between June 1 and June 30 morning, as per the India Meteorological Department Bhopal centre’s forecast in-charge Divya Surendran.

She said the rain-bearing system, which hit the state on June 21, has covered the entire Madhya Pradesh by June 28.

With the ongoing advancements in conservation practices, KNP is determined to secure a future for cheetahs in India. By addressing health concerns and implementing strategic interventions, the park strives to create a safe habitat for these iconic predators.

The translocation project, which brought cheetahs from across continents to India, represents a significant step towards reviving the cheetah population in the country.

As efforts continue to protect and support these majestic animals, KNP remains at the forefront of conservation initiatives aimed at preserving biodiversity and wildlife heritage, Sharma said.

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Published 30 June 2024, 07:24 IST

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