Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Radio collars are killing the cheetahs in Kuno. Here is how — and why


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Project Cheetah, Cheetah- characteristics and conservation status

Mains level: Project cheetah, Significance of cheetahs reintroduction, conservation failures and way forward


What’s the news?

  • Till now, eight translocated cheetahs at Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park (KNP) have died.

Central idea

  • The recent deaths of two cheetahs in Kuno due to suspected septicaemia from festering neck wounds caused by radio collars have raised concerns about the reintroduction project. Similar injuries have been observed in three other cheetahs. This unexpected setback has puzzled experts familiar with the routine use of collars for monitoring and research purposes in both India and Africa.

What are collars on animals?

  • Collars on animals refer to devices worn around the neck or attached to the neck area of an animal. These collars serve various purposes depending on the specific context and the type of animal involved.

What are Radio Collars used on Cheetahs?

  • Radio collars are like tracking collars which utilizes radio signals for monitoring animals.
  • They are commonly used in wildlife research to gather information about animal movements, home ranges, and social interactions.
  • Radio collars can provide valuable insights into the behaviour and ecology of animals in the wild.

The Problem with Collars

  • Carrying a device on the body for an extended period can have adverse effects.
  • A study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research highlighted the higher presence of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria on the wrists of watch wearers, which can lead to sepsis or death.
  • Similarly, domestic dogs often develop acute moist dermatitis or hot spots under collars, worsened by tick or flea bites.
  • Moreover, tight-fitting collars can cause pressure necrosis and hair loss around the neck, resembling bedsores

Factors Influencing Vulnerability of Cheetahs in Kuno

  • Cheetahs possess a furrier winter coat compared to tigers or leopards, which retains more water and takes longer to dry.
  • This prolonged moisture exposure weakens the skin over time.
  • A study criticized the 3% collar weight rule for not considering animal athleticism.
  • Accelerometer-based research revealed that collars exert forces on cheetahs during movement equivalent to up to 18 times the collar’s weight.
  • This weight burden, particularly on a wet coat, may have adverse effects on cheetahs during high-speed sprints.
  • Cheetahs may be vulnerable to local pathogens to which Indian tigers and leopards are immune.
  • Alternatively, the cheetahs might have carried dormant pathogens that thrived under new conditions, given their weakened immunity due to stress

What needs to be done?

  • An immediate action is to track, immobilize, and evaluate all cheetahs for neck injuries caused by the radio collars.
  • Reevaluating the use of radio collars and exploring collar modifications or alternatives.
  • Developing lighter collars and ensuring proper fitting to minimize the risk of collar-induced injuries.
  • Non-invasive tracking methods that do not require collars could be explored.
  • Providing appropriate veterinary care and treatment
  • Understand and identify the specific pathogens causing collar-induced infections in the cheetahs of Kuno
  • Collaboration among wildlife biologists, veterinarians, researchers, and conservationists is crucial. Consultation and sharing knowledge and experiences.

FYI: Some common types of collars used on animals

  • Identification Collars: Collars with tags or labels are often used on domestic pets such as dogs and cats for identification purposes.
  • Tracking Collars: Tracking collars are commonly used in wildlife research and conservation Equipped with GPS or radio transmittersmonitor movement and behavior of animals.
  • Electric Fencing Collars: To train livestock and other animals to avoid crossing designated boundaries. Electric fencing systems and deliver a mild electric shock
  • Training Collars: Training collars, also known as e-collars or shock collars, are used in dog training to aid in obedience training or behavior correction- mild electrical stimulation or vibrations to reinforce desired actions


  • The recent collar-induced injuries and deaths of cheetahs in Kuno have posed a significant challenge to the reintroduction project. It is crucial to address the issues to ensure the success and well-being of the cheetahs. However, finding a solution that balances collar use with the cheetahs’ safety and health remains a complex task.

Also read: The impact of cheetahs on India’s grasslands

Reintroduction of Cheetahs and Its Potential Impact

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