Project Cheetah Implementation

azadi ka amrit mahotsav

The Government of India has launched the ambitious project on bringing back cheetah to India. The Project Cheetah is being implemented by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a statutory body under Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) in collaboration with Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and Cheetah experts from Namibia and South Africa. The project implementation is being done as per the “Action plan for Introduction in India” and a Steering Committee comprising of eminent experts/ officials involved in the first ever successful tiger reintroduction in Sariska and Panna Tiger Reserve, to oversee the project has also been constituted.

Under Project Cheetah, a total of 20 radiocollared cheetahs were imported from Namibia and South Africa to Kuno National Park, Madhya Pradesh, in a first ever transcontinental wild to wild translocation. After mandatory quarantine period, all cheetahs were shifted to larger acclimatization enclosures. Currently, 11 cheetahs are under free ranging condition and 5 animals including a cub born on Indian soil are within quarantine enclosure. Each of the free ranging cheetahs is being monitored round the clock by a dedicated monitoring team.

Cheetah has been brought back to India after 7 decades and a project of such a stature is bound to undergo ups and downs. Global experience particularly from South Africa suggests that in the initial phase of reintroduction of cheetah in African countries has resulted in more than 50% mortality of introduced cheetahs. The mortality of cheetah may happen due to intraspecific fights, diseases, accidents before release and post release, the mortality might result from injury caused during hunting of prey, poaching, road hits, poisoning and predatory attack by other predators etc. Considering all these eventualities the action plan has made provision for annual supplementation of initial founder population annually for managing the demographic and genetic composition of the reintroduction population.

Out of 20 translocated adult cheetahs, five mortalities of adult cheetahs have been reported from Kuno National Park and as per the preliminary analysis all mortalities are due to natural causes. There are reports in the media attributing cheetah deaths due to radio collar etc.  Such reports are not based on any scientific evidence but on speculation and hearsay.

For investigating the cause of cheetah deaths, consultation with international cheetah experts/ veterinary doctors from South Africa and Namibia is being done on regular basis. Further, the existing monitoring protocols, protection status, managerial inputs, veterinary facilities, training and capacity building aspects are being reviewed by independent national experts. The Cheetah Project Steering Committee is closely monitoring the project and has expressed satisfaction over its implementation so far.

Further, steps like establishment of Cheetah Research Center with facilities for rescue, rehabilitation, capacity building, interpretation; bringing additional forest area under administrative control of Kuno National Park for landscape level management; providing additional frontline staff; establishing Cheetah Protection Force; and creation of second home for cheetahs in Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh have been envisaged.

Government of India has deployed dedicated NTCA team of officials to work in close coordination with the field officials. This team is engaged for analyzing real time field data collated by the field monitoring teams for deciding upon various management aspects including health and related interventions required to be in place for better management.

Project cheetah is yet to complete a year and it will be premature to conclude the outcome in terms of success and failure since cheetah introduction is a long-term project. In the last 10 months, all stakeholders involved in this cheetah reintroduction project have gained valuable insights in cheetah management, monitoring and protection and we are optimistic that the project will succeed in the long run and there is no reason to speculate at this juncture.



Source PIB