Cheetahs to be re-introduced in India after being declared extinct in 1952


The world’s fastest land animal, Cheetah which was declared extinct in India in 1952, has been expected to be re-introduced in India in November 2021 at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh, says State Forest Minister Vijay Shah.

India’s last spotted Cheetah had died in Chhattisgarh in 1947 and was declared extinct in the country in 1952. A few years back, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) had also prepared a Cheetah re-introduction project.

As per the State Forest Minister, Kuno is located in the Chambal region and is spread over an area of over 750 sq km. It has a conducive environment for Cheetah.

He added that the protected area, comprising a considerable population of Chinkara, four-horned antelopes, wild boar, nilgai, spotted deer, has a good prey base for Cheetahs.

Cheetahs to be brought from South Africa:

The Supreme Court has given its approval to introduce African Cheetahs to suitable habitats in India on an experimental basis.

The Forest Minister of Madhya Pradesh Vijay Shah informed that the process of creating an enclosure for around 10 cheetahs has been started and it is going to be completed by August 2021. The 10 cheetahs, including 5 females, will be brought from South Africa to Kuno in Sheopur District.

Indian officials will be sent to South Africa for the training and sensitization in June and July 2021 and as per the plan, the transportation of Cheetahs will take place in October and November 2021.

Budget of ‘Project Cheetah’:

The State Forest Minister has informed that as per the approved timeline sent by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, the tentative budget outlay of ‘Project Cheetah’ is Rs. 1,400 lakh for this fiscal year.

The money will be released by the National Tiger Conservation Authority for the project to Madhya Pradesh and the Wildlife Institute of India at Dehradun in June 2021.

Habitat approved by South African authorities:

On April 26, 2021, an expert from South Africa had visited the Kuno National Park along with the scientists from the Wildlife Institute of India. They inspected the facilities and the habitats created there for the introduction of African Cheetahs. The experts approved the park and now the final process of bringing the Cheetahs is underway.

The experts from WII had earlier visited four places in Madhya Pradesh to look for the best habitat for the introduction of African Cheetah in India.

The team had visited the Juno National Park, the Madhav National Park in Shivpuri District, the Gandhi Sagar Sanctuary on the northern boundary of Mandsaur and Neemuch districts, and Nauradehi Sanctuary in Sagar district.

The Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests J S Chauhan, while referring to the tiger reintroduction programme in Panna Tiger Reserve in 2009, stated that MP had been in the past home to Cheetahs. He added that the state also has a successful animal translocation track record.

Declining population of Cheetahs: Background

Cheetah had been considered vulnerable under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s- IUCN red list of threatened species, with a declining population of fewer than 7,000 cheetahs found primarily in African Savannas.

In 2020, the Supreme Court had set up a three-member committee to guide the NTCA on the Cheetah re-introduction project.

The panel had also asked the Wildlife Institute of India to carry out a technical evaluation of all the possible sites for the re-introduction of Cheetahs in India.

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