Context: The first batch of eight cheetahs from Namibia arrived on September 17, 2022, officially launching Project Cheetah, India’s cheetah introduction programme. An overview of the project as it completes one year.
What is Project Cheetah?
- It is an ambitious project to re-establish the species within its historical range in India.
- The project hopes to benefit global cheetah conservation efforts by providing up to 100 000 km2 of habitat in legally protected areas and an additional 600 000 km2 of habitable landscape for the species.
Cheetahs fulfil a unique ecological role within the carnivore hierarchy and their restoration is expected to enhance ecosystem health in India. As a charismatic species, the cheetah can also benefit India’s broader conservation goals by improving general protection and ecotourism in areas that have been previously neglected.
- In total, 20 adult African cheetahs have been imported so far.
- So far, only 12 of the 20 cheetahs were ever released into the wild, with a few being brought back multiple times to the Kuno National Park (KNP).
- Six of the cheetahs which came from Africa have died.
Why did the cheetahs die?
There have been a variety of reasons and causes attributed to the deaths of the six adults and three cubs. Radio collars are not the underlying reason for the deaths of any of these cats, at least that is the officially stated position.
One needs to determine if the African cheetahs are susceptible to certain insects and parasites in India, and if the collars provide a micro-environment conducive for these to thrive.