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IFS Officer, Key Figure in Kuno National Park, Dismissed as MP's Chief Wildlife Warden

During this time as the Divisional Forest Officer, he was regarded as the mastermind behind the development of Kuno National Park, with the intention of reintroducing Asiatic Gir lions. However, this endeavour was put on hold due to a lengthy legal dispute in the Supreme Court.

Shivangi Rai
Chauhan, a 1987 IFS officer widely regarded as a highly respected officer with an expertise in wildlife conservation. (Image Courtesy- kunonationalpark.org)
Chauhan, a 1987 IFS officer widely regarded as a highly respected officer with an expertise in wildlife conservation. (Image Courtesy- kunonationalpark.org)

The Madhya Pradesh government's decision to remove senior IFS officer, JS Chauhan, from his position as the state's chief wildlife warden has sparked controversy and debate.

Chauhan, a highly respected officer with expertise in wildlife conservation, had been known for his contributions to projects like the Kuno National Park and the ambitious reintroduction of cheetahs from the African continent to India.

Chauhan's reputation as an efficient administrator and conservationist earned him admiration among his colleagues. He played a pivotal role in the successful rehabilitation of local tribal villages in Kuno National Park, endearing himself to the local population. His foresight and dedication in conservation efforts were evident in his work to protect the endangered hard-ground Barasingha at Kanha National Park, as well as his contributions to the positive trends in the tiger population during his tenure as deputy director.

However, the cheetah reintroduction project at Kuno Park has faced significant challenges. Reports of cheetah deaths, especially due to the use of radio collars, raised concerns and controversy.

South African cheetah expert Adrian Tordiffe, who was involved in the translocation of cheetahs to India, acknowledged the impact of wet weather conditions and radio collars on the cheetahs' mortality. The Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change defended the project, asserting that the deaths were not caused by the radio collars but rather by natural factors.

Chauhan's removal from his position came as a surprise to many, including experts attending the steering committee meeting. His colleagues and peers described him as an expert and a sensible man in his approach to wildlife conservation. Despite this, he was replaced by Asim Srivastava, another experienced IFS officer, in the position of Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife).

Chauhan's career had been marked by his dedication to the development and protection of Kuno National Park. His efforts in village relocation and strict enforcement of protection measures contributed to the rejuvenation of the Kuno landscape, making it a suitable habitat for large carnivores like cheetahs. He played a crucial role in the planning and execution of the cheetah reintroduction program that saw 20 cheetahs translocated to India.

Since the reintroduction, there have been eight cheetah deaths, raising concerns about the project's viability. Cases of neck injuries and organ failure in cheetahs have led to further scrutiny. The loss of four cubs due to extreme weather conditions and dehydration, as well as the death of a female cheetah during mating, have added to the challenges faced by the project.

Despite the setbacks, Chauhan's colleagues and locals praised his efforts and credited him with the positive changes in the Kuno landscape. His transfer to Kuno National Park is seen as an opportunity for him to continue his work and contributions to the conservation efforts in the region.

The situation surrounding Chauhan's removal and the cheetah reintroduction project remains complex and sensitive. As stakeholders evaluate the progress and challenges faced, the focus remains on finding sustainable solutions to ensure the protection and conservation of India's wildlife heritage.

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