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BW Explains: Why India's Attempt To Restablish Cheetah Raising Questions

India's import of the Cheetah was an event that garnered much of Indian and world media's attention. But the recent deaths of two of these big cats has raised several questions

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Cheetah, the world’s fastest wild animal on land, became an officially extinct species in India in 1952. The big cat, that only existed in Indian school books for almost 7 decades, was back in the country in September last year, through India’s much talked about Cheetah Reintroduction project. A project that finally succeeded in 2022 since its inception in 2009, aims to expand the extinct wild cat within its historic range, thereby contributing to global Cheetah conservation efforts. 

The Cheetah’s arrival evoked a lot national interest and the recent two deaths of the cheetah have sparked a debate over the much-spent project and the success or failure associated with its breeding, BW Explains quickly looks at India’s attempt at reintroducing the extinct species.

What Is Cheetah Reintroduction Project?

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Cheetahs are at a global extinction level and classified as a vulnerable species, that India lost decades ago due to extensive poaching and habitat loss. So, the Cheetah Reintroduction Project is to re-establish the species to restore the country’s natural biodiversity and balance the dwindling grassland fauna. Currently, the project is signed between India and Africa and includes an agreement of relocating 12 African Cheetahs to India, every year for the next 8 to 10 years.

What Is The Total Cost Of The Project?

It is one of the most expensive conservation projects in India and is estimated to cost over Rs 990 crores, other than Rs 500 crores of its yearly maintenance. According to reports, the first phase of the relocation of 8 Cheetahs cost around Rs 75 crore, and India’s oil mammoth, Indian Oil Corporation contributed a big share as a Corporate Social Responsibility that cost around Rs 50.22 crore. The second phase too costs a hefty amount, exact figures are unknown.

What Was The Need For Import Of African Cheetah?

Initially, the Cheetahs were supposed to be imported from Iran, as the Iranian Cheetah is genetically closest to the Indian, which went extinct. But the Islamic country was hesitant over the export due to the wild cat’s lower existence and wanted Asiatic Indian Lion in exchange, which eventually stood a dropped plan and the African Cheetahs were welcomed by India, a species quite similar to the Asiatic Cheetah.

How Many Cheetahs Were Imported?

Till now 20 Cheetahs have been Imported from Africa in two phases.

Phase One: On 17 September 2022, 8 cheetahs from Namibia marked the first phase of the project which included 3 male and 5 female Cheetahs respectively.

The Cheetahs were named–

Male: Freddie, Elton, and Oban.

Female: Siyaya, Aasha, Tbilisi, Sasha, and Savannah.

Phase Two: On 18 February 2023, 12 cheetahs from South Africa marked the second phase of the project which included 7 male and 5 female Cheetahs respectively.

The Cheetahs were named –

Male: Tejas, Veera, Suraj, Dheera, Uday, Prabhas and Pavak.

Female: Daksha, Nirva, Vayu, Agni and Gamini. 

Why was Kuno National Park Selected?

The Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh potentially held the Asiatic Cheetah for many years, before their existence was permanently wiped out due to overhunting and habitat destruction and so the animal park is identified for the African mammal’s habitat, its adequate prey base, and lack of human settlement will further facilitate the mammoth raising.

The Celebration Of Birth

In March 2023, India observed a momentous event when Siyaya the female Cheetah gave birth to four cubs which were all healthy and fine, a historic moment after over 70 years of the Indian Cheetah’s extinction.

The Saga Of Death

India’s hopes of reviving the fastest wild cat suffered a setback with two back-to-back deaths, the first on 27 March when the five-year-old female Cheetah, Sasha died of kidney ailment and the other with the recent sudden death of Uday the six-year-old male Cheetah, cause of death yet to be determined.

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Cheetah extinction africa agreement Cheetah Sasha Cheetah Uday