Its been one year to cheetah reintroduction in India. They were first reintroduced in India on September 17, 2022, after almost 75 years of local extinction from the country. The wildcats were introduced from two countries – Namibia and South Africa. In the first phase, eight African cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus) from Namibia translocated into Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.
Subsequently, twelve cheetahs from South Africa were also translocated and released in Kuno National Park in February, 2023.
According to SP Yadav, Additional Director General of Forests at the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and head of the project cheetah said, “We are planning to bring 12 to 14 cheetahs from South Africa after careful selection, taking due care of health parameters and adaptability in the Indian habitat.”
He further added that at this stage, we are planning for translocation from South Africa only and not Namibia.
Although, most of the Cheetahs are adapting well to the Indian conditions and showing normal qualities like hunting, exploring the landscape, protecting their kill, avoiding/chasing other carnivores. According to the Environment Ministry, so far no cheetah has died due to unnatural causes like poaching, hunting, snaring, accident, poisoning, and retaliatory killing. However, there have been reports of cheetah deaths.
According to the Ministry of Environment, as on July 16, 2023, of the 20 translocated Cheetahs from South Africa and Namibia, five mortalities of adult individuals have been reported from Kuno National Park, Madhya Pradesh. As per the preliminary analysis by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the apex body entrusted with the implementation of Project Cheetah, all mortalities were due to natural causes. One of the female cheetahs gave birth to 4 cubs but only one cub survived. According to a press note by the Madhya Pradesh state forest department, a monitoring team found Tiblisi – aka Dhatri, a female brought to Kuno from Namibia – dead on the morning of August 2.
According to the Government, being a long term project, it is planned to bring 12-14 cheetahs from South Africa/Namibia/ other African Countries, annually for the next 5 years and after that, as and when required. Other alternative sites for cheetah introductions are being prepared at Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary and also at Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary. Quarantine and acclimatization enclosures are under construction at Gandhi Sagar WLS and the site is expected to be ready by the year end. After evaluation of the site, the next batch of cheetah will be planned to bring at Gandhi Sagar WLS. Conservation breeding of Cheetah Centre, Cheetah Research Centre, Interpretation Centre, Cheetah Management Training Centre and Cheetah Safari are being planned.
Project Cheetah has achieved most of the bench mark and criteria set for the first year and is on the right track, the Ministry added on the one year completion of the project.