New Delhi: Union minister of environment, forest and climate change Bhupender Yadav on Thursday announced the translocation of twelve Cheetahs from South Africa to India on February 18. The Cheetahs will be translocated to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.
Addressing the media, Yadav said that bringing cheetahs back to India will help in restoring the nation’s natural heritage. He also thanked the defence ministry and the Indian air force (IAF) for extending full support for the translocation. Translocation of cheetah is part of various initiatives taken up by the ministry in the areas of wildlife conservation including Project Cheetah, LIFE concept and its sustainability, green growth namely Green Credit, Mishti – for mangrove conservation and Gaj Utsav among others.
Last Cheetahs seen in India in 1947
The last cheetahs in the Indian wilderness were recorded in 1947 where three cheetahs were shot in the Sal (Shorea robusta) forests of Koriya district, Chhattisgarh. The main reasons for the decline of cheetah in India were large scale capture of animals from the wild for coursing, bounty and sport hunting, extensive habitat conversion along with consequent decline in prey base and in 1952 cheetahs were declared as extinct.
Project Cheetah aims to bring big cat in its historic range
The goal of cheetah introduction project in India is to establish viable cheetah metapopulation in India that allows the cheetah to perform its functional role as a top predator and provide space for the expansion of the cheetah within its historic range thereby contributing to its global conservation efforts, said a senior officer of the ministry of environment, forest and climate change .
First lots of Cheetahs brought to India on Sept 17
In this context, the government of India initiated G2G consultative meetings with Republic of Namibia, which culminated in the signing of MoU between the two countries on July 20, 2022 for cheetah conservation. Following the signing of MoU, in a historic first wild to wild intercontinental translocation, eight cheetahs were transported from Namibia to India on September 17, 2022 and were released into the quarantine bomas by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Post the mandatory quarantine period, the cheetahs have been released into the larger enclosure in phased manner. All the eight individual cheetahs are doing very well in terms of natural behaviour, body condition, activity pattern and overall fitness. All cheetahs are reportedly doing well and hunting the wild prey.
10-12 Cheetahs to be imported from African counties in next 5 yrs
As per the Action Plan for cheetah introduction in India, annually 10-12 cheetahs are required to be imported from African countries for the next five years at least. In this context, the government of India initiated bilateral negotiations with Republic of South Africa since 2021 for cooperation in the field of cheetah conservation. The negotiations were successfully concluded with the signing of MoU with the Republic of South Africa in January 2023.
12 more cheetahs to come to India on Feb 18
Under the provisions of the MoU, a first batch of 12 cheetahs (7 males, 5 females) will be translocated from South Africa to India on 18th February 2023. The translocation of 12 cheetahs from South Africa to Gwalior and onwards to Kuno National Park through helicopters is being done by the IAF. A delegation of cheetah experts, veterinarians and senior officials will be accompanying the cheetahs during the transcontinental translocation exercise..
Fresh cheetahs to be quarantined before release in jungle
Post arrival in India, all 12 cheetahs will be housed in specially created enclosures at Kuno National Park for completing the mandatory quarantine period and the animals will be intensively monitored.
For taking India’s ambitious project on cheetah introduction forward, a consultative workshop involving international cheetah experts, scientists, veterinarians, and forest officials has been planned for February 20 at Kuno National Park. The outcome of the workshop will pave way for better cheetah management and will help in successfully establishing cheetah metapopulation in India.
The major objectives of cheetah introduction project:
To establish breeding cheetah populations in safe habitats across its historic range and manage them as a metapopulation
To use cheetah as a charismatic flagship and umbrella species to garner resources for restoring open forest and savanna systems to benefit biodiversity and ecosystem services from these ecosystems
To use ensuing opportunity for eco-development and eco-tourism to enhance local community livelihoods
To manage any conflict by cheetah or other wildlife with local communities within cheetah conservation areas expediently through compensation, awareness, and management action