Cheetahs in India: 12-14 more of the big cats will call India 'home', says govt

Dec 22, 2022 06:45 PM IST

Cheetahs from Namibia: The government has signed an MoU with the African country to relocate at least a dozen more cheetahs.

Twelve to fourteen cheetahs will be relocated from Africa over the next five years as part of the government's efforts to re-introduce the big cat to India's forests, union environment minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey told the Rajya Sabha Thursday. "The government has signed a MoU with the Government of the Republic of Namibia..." the union minister said.

A cheetah after being released inside a special enclosure of the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh (PTI)
A cheetah after being released inside a special enclosure of the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh (PTI)

Eight - five females and three males - were part of the first shipment from Namibia earlier this year. All eight have been safely released into the wilds of Madhya Pradesh's Kuno National Park - and have completed their first kills on Indian soil - after quarantine.

The union minister said 38.7 crore from Project Tiger had been allocated towards the re-introduction of cheetahs in India - a project spanning 2021/22 to 2025/26. This is in addition, he said, to the 29.47 crore from the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), which will cover introduction, management and maintenance.

Choubey also said the eight cheetahs at Kuno were in perfect condition and are being monitored round-the-clock to ensure they adapt to their new homes.

The last individuals to be released from quarantine were three females, who joined the others in the larger enclosure last month. "Now they will adapt... explore the forest (a guarded six square km enclosure). They will kill prey to feed themselves," Uttam Sharma, Kuno field director, said.

The males have acclimatised and are hunting. "Now we expect females will too."

READ | Cheetahs make first kill on Indian soil within 24 hours of release

The cheetahs will be tracked by four high-resolution cameras and a team of 16 forest guards will monitor them; each animal will be monitored by two.

A sniffer dog has also been deployed to help guard the animals.

READ | All 8 cheetahs released into big enclosure in 1st phase of project

Experts have said the real big challenge will be after their release into the wild, including learning to learn live in a new habitat and hunt new prey, as well as deal with the 45 leopards and one tiger roaming the area.

One expert told Hindustan Times that in the mixed dry deciduous forests of Kuno the latter two big cats may have an advantage.

The eight cheetahs have been brought to India as part of a project to re-introduce the animal. The species was declared extinct in India in 1952.

With input from ANI

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