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Explained | India Home to Cheetahs After 70 Years: Why Is It Significant?

PM Modi will release five female and three male cheetahs into Kuno National Park’s quarantine enclosures on Friday.

Published
India
4 min read
Explained | India Home to Cheetahs After 70 Years: Why Is It Significant?
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Eight African cheetahs have been moved from Namibia into their new habitat at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh on Friday, September 17, on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's birthday.

The PM is expected to release the five female and three male cheetahs into the Park’s quarantine enclosures on Friday as part of his efforts to revitalise and diversify the country's wildlife and habitat, his office has said.

What's the significance of the translocation? Where will they be kept? How are they being brought to India? Here's all you need to know.

Explained | India Home to Cheetahs After 70 Years: Why Is It Significant?

  1. 1. Why the Cheetah?

    The last cheetah in India died in 1947 in Korea district in present day Chhattisgarh, which was earlier part of Madhya Pradesh, and the species was declared extinct from India in 1952.

    According to reports, the cheetah has lost 90 percent of its global habitat in the last 100 years. In addition, in many of the 31 populations of the cheetah, only 100-200 are left with their habitat consistently deteriorating.

    The 'African Cheetah Introduction Project in India' was conceived in 2009, with a plan to introduce the big cat by November last year in Kuno National Park, but it suffered a setback due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Expand
  2. 2. How Will the Cheetahs be Brought to India?

    The cheetahs will board a customised Boeing 747-400 aircraft from Namibia's capital Windhoek and arrive in Gwalior after completing an overnight journey lasting 10 hours and traversing 8,000 kilometres.

    The felines will then be shifted from Gwalior to Kuno National Park (KNP) in an Indian Air Force (IAF) Chinook heavy-lift helicopter.

    The cheetahs, aged between four and six years, will not be tranquilised for the journey. They will be fed two-three days before the journey and will be accompanied in the aircraft by three veterinarians.  

    The aircraft bringing the animals has been sourced from a UAE-based aircraft company by Action Aviation. It carries the image of a tiger on its nose.

    Expand
  3. 3. How Much Will the Translocation Cost?

    The translocation of the cheetahs is expected to cost the exchequer Rs 70 crore, of which Rs 50 crore will be borne by Indian Oil Corporation (IOC).

    IOC has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) for meeting two thirds of the Rs 75 crore project cost, India TV reported.

    Expand
  4. 4. Why is it Significant?

    Dr Laurie Marker, who has been an advisor to the Indian government on the cheetah relocation project for over 12 years told The Indian Express that this is the first time that a trans-continental project like this is taking off.

    The ongoing challenge is to maintain the population for future generations – and that’s why the Indian Government’s initiative is welcome and visionary.
    Dr Laurie Marker

    The cheetah has gone extinct in several countries due to human activity, so it is our responsibility to ensure that it is brought back and preserved. Of course, the ideal situation would be to conserve animals because re-introduction is a difficult and long process. But once an animal becomes extinct, this is the only way,” Dr Marker added.

    After their arrival, India will be the only country to house all five members of the 'big cat' species – tiger, lion, leopard, snow leopard, and cheetah.
    Expand
  5. 5. Has Translocation of Cheetahs Been Successful in the Past?

    As per the documentations of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), at least 727 cheetahs have been translocated to 64 sited across Africa between 1965 and 2010.

    Only six of the 64 sites were considered successful based on the births to mortality ratio three years after the introduction began.

    Expand
  6. 6. Human-Animal Conflict

    While the national park is spread out in an area of 740 square kilometres, the cheetahs will have access to forested and semi-forested areas around it, encompassing a larger area of 5,000 kilometres.

    24 of the 25 villages in the area had been relocated in the preparation of the translocation of the Asiatic Lion from the Gir National Park in Gujarat. The relocation of 148 families of the remaining one village – Bagcha – is underway Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav told The Indian Express.

    Historically, the cheetah has not been known to attack humans. So we don’t anticipate human-animal conflict in the area. However, they have been known to attack livestock, and we have informed the villagers of this.
    Bhupender Yadav

    Challenges

    Studies have shown that leopards have preyed on cheetahs in Africa, and similar fears are being expressed for Kuno as well, where around 50 leopards are housed around the same area. According to experts, cheetah is a very delicate animal, they avoid conflict but remain in the target of competing animals.

    In Kuno, cheetah cubs can be at great risk from leopards, hyenas, wolves, bears, and wild dogs. In 2013, a research on cheetahs found in Africa's Kgalagadi Park showed that their cubs have only 36 percent chance of survival. Predatory animals are the main reason behind the death of their cubs.

    (With inputs from The Indian Express.)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Why the Cheetah?

The last cheetah in India died in 1947 in Korea district in present day Chhattisgarh, which was earlier part of Madhya Pradesh, and the species was declared extinct from India in 1952.

According to reports, the cheetah has lost 90 percent of its global habitat in the last 100 years. In addition, in many of the 31 populations of the cheetah, only 100-200 are left with their habitat consistently deteriorating.

The 'African Cheetah Introduction Project in India' was conceived in 2009, with a plan to introduce the big cat by November last year in Kuno National Park, but it suffered a setback due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

ADVERTISEMENT

How Will the Cheetahs be Brought to India?

The cheetahs will board a customised Boeing 747-400 aircraft from Namibia's capital Windhoek and arrive in Gwalior after completing an overnight journey lasting 10 hours and traversing 8,000 kilometres.

The felines will then be shifted from Gwalior to Kuno National Park (KNP) in an Indian Air Force (IAF) Chinook heavy-lift helicopter.

The cheetahs, aged between four and six years, will not be tranquilised for the journey. They will be fed two-three days before the journey and will be accompanied in the aircraft by three veterinarians.  

The aircraft bringing the animals has been sourced from a UAE-based aircraft company by Action Aviation. It carries the image of a tiger on its nose.

ADVERTISEMENT

How Much Will the Translocation Cost?

The translocation of the cheetahs is expected to cost the exchequer Rs 70 crore, of which Rs 50 crore will be borne by Indian Oil Corporation (IOC).

IOC has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) for meeting two thirds of the Rs 75 crore project cost, India TV reported.

ADVERTISEMENT

Why is it Significant?

Dr Laurie Marker, who has been an advisor to the Indian government on the cheetah relocation project for over 12 years told The Indian Express that this is the first time that a trans-continental project like this is taking off.

The ongoing challenge is to maintain the population for future generations – and that’s why the Indian Government’s initiative is welcome and visionary.
Dr Laurie Marker

The cheetah has gone extinct in several countries due to human activity, so it is our responsibility to ensure that it is brought back and preserved. Of course, the ideal situation would be to conserve animals because re-introduction is a difficult and long process. But once an animal becomes extinct, this is the only way,” Dr Marker added.

After their arrival, India will be the only country to house all five members of the 'big cat' species – tiger, lion, leopard, snow leopard, and cheetah.
ADVERTISEMENT

Has Translocation of Cheetahs Been Successful in the Past?

As per the documentations of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), at least 727 cheetahs have been translocated to 64 sited across Africa between 1965 and 2010.

Only six of the 64 sites were considered successful based on the births to mortality ratio three years after the introduction began.

ADVERTISEMENT

Human-Animal Conflict

While the national park is spread out in an area of 740 square kilometres, the cheetahs will have access to forested and semi-forested areas around it, encompassing a larger area of 5,000 kilometres.

24 of the 25 villages in the area had been relocated in the preparation of the translocation of the Asiatic Lion from the Gir National Park in Gujarat. The relocation of 148 families of the remaining one village – Bagcha – is underway Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav told The Indian Express.

Historically, the cheetah has not been known to attack humans. So we don’t anticipate human-animal conflict in the area. However, they have been known to attack livestock, and we have informed the villagers of this.
Bhupender Yadav

Challenges

Studies have shown that leopards have preyed on cheetahs in Africa, and similar fears are being expressed for Kuno as well, where around 50 leopards are housed around the same area. According to experts, cheetah is a very delicate animal, they avoid conflict but remain in the target of competing animals.

In Kuno, cheetah cubs can be at great risk from leopards, hyenas, wolves, bears, and wild dogs. In 2013, a research on cheetahs found in Africa's Kgalagadi Park showed that their cubs have only 36 percent chance of survival. Predatory animals are the main reason behind the death of their cubs.

(With inputs from The Indian Express.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Edited By :Padmashree Pande
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