The Madhya Pradesh government has made a change in the leadership of the state’s wildlife division by removing senior IFS officer Jasvir Singh Chouhan from his position as Principal Chief Conservation of Forest (Wildlife). A notification issued by the forest department on Monday stated that Chouhan, a 1987 batch IFS officer, has been replaced by Aseem Srivastava, who previously served as the Principal Chief Conservation of Forest (Production).
It is noteworthy that the Principal Chief Conservation of Forest (Wildlife) also holds the position of Chief Wildlife Warden (CWLW) of the state and serves as the top authority in the wildlife division of the forest department. This decision comes amidst increased scrutiny over the frequent deaths of cheetahs at Kuno National Park (KNP).
Chouhan, a highly respected officer with expertise in wildlife conservation, is considered the architect of Kuno National Park. As the former Divisional Forest Officer of KNP, he played a crucial role in the reintroduction of Asiatic Gir lions, which faced legal challenges in the Supreme Court.
Sources within the Madhya Pradesh forest department have informed the media that more forest officials associated with KNP are likely to be replaced in the coming days, as the Union Environment and Forest Ministry expressed dissatisfaction. Over a span of five months, a total of eight cheetahs, including three born to a Namibian female cheetah named Siyaya, have died, raising concerns about the management of Project Cheetah in Madhya Pradesh.
On Sunday, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the nodal agency for Project Cheetah, stated that the deaths of cheetahs Tejas and Suraj were natural and that it is premature to evaluate the success or failure of the project within its first year, as cheetah reintroduction is a long-term endeavor. However, a day later, the top officer in the wildlife division of the state forest department was reassigned, suggesting that his performance may not have been satisfactory.
Ajay Dubey, a wildlife activist based in Bhopal who has been advocating for the removal of Chouhan, has written to the central government and the Madhya Pradesh government. He stated that while the action to shift Chouhan was appropriate, it came late.
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