African Cheetahs for Indian Forest

(Source: Wiki Commons)

Kuno-Palpur National Park could be the first home for African cheetah in India in 2022.

The idea of introducing African cheetahs in India might see some action in 2022. For almost a decade there have been discussions about this move but nothing concrete came out. The issue got momentum when the SC on January 28, 2020 approved the introduction of the African Cheetah in India on an experimental basis in a carefully chosen habitat which will be closely monitored to assess if the cat can adapt to Indian conditions.

Hopefully, the year 2022 might see the wild cats finally arriving in India, as the Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav, launched an ‘Action Plan for Introduction of Cheetah in India’ on January 5 at the 19th meeting of the National Tiger Conservation Authority. “Experts from South Africa visited Kuno and found the habitat suitable for reintroduction. In fact, they said it is better than some of their habitats in South Africa. Reintroduction will take months. First, we need to see if they (the cheetahs) are able to kill prey in a very large enclosure,” informed Yadav.

The first batch of 12-14 African cheetahs will be brought from Namibia or South Africa this year to Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno-Palpur National Park. Preparation were started by the forest department in early 2021 but the project was delayed as floods in August disrupted preparations to build proper enclosures for them. Later in November 2021, Indian officials had to shelve the plan due to COVID related travel restrictions.

According to the officials, they will again try to send the Indian contingent soon depending on the situation, however, there is no deadline for the relocation as yet.

A plan to introduce African cheetahs to India has been on the cards for almost two decades now. The move comes 74 years after the last of the big cats was killed in India. The cheetah was declared extinct in the country in 1952. The 748 sq. km Kuno-Palpur National Park in Madhya Pradesh will be the first release site. According to the plan document, the park can sustain up to 21 cheetahs. By 2026, around 50 African cheetahs are expected to roam India’s grasslands.

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