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India’s Project Cheetah going awry as eight cheetahs die in the last four months

India rejoiced with pride as the first group of cheetahs arrived in the country via an Air Force C-17 Globemaster aircraft. These cheetahs were relocated to the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.

The initiative, known as the ‘Action Plan for Introduction of Cheetah in India,’ aimed to reintroduce cheetahs to the nation and restore their majestic presence as the world’s fastest land animal.

However, the project encountered setbacks as a series of cheetah deaths occurred, totaling eight felines so far. Wildlife authorities attributed the deaths to natural causes. Following a recent death, a top Indian wildlife official, Jasbir Singh Chauhan, was removed from his position, leading to speculation about concerns over the project’s management.

While the environment ministry cautioned against prematurely declaring the program a success or failure, wildlife conservationist Praveen Bhargav criticized the reintroduction program, citing fundamental issues being ignored. He believed the reintroduction was destined to fail due to the lack of expansive grassland habitats and other ecological conditions necessary for such a complex endeavor.

Media reports suggested that the cheetah deaths could be linked to sub-standard radio collars used on the animals. However, the government refuted these claims, stating there was no scientific evidence to support such allegations.

India’s last recorded cheetah sighting was in 1947, after which the population rapidly declined due to capture for hunting and habitat loss. Cheetahs were declared extinct in India in 1952. The current initiative aims to reintroduce African cheetahs to establish a viable population and contribute to global conservation efforts.

The goals of the cheetah introduction project in India include establishing a breeding cheetah population, utilizing cheetahs as flagship and umbrella species to restore open forest and savanna systems, and enhancing local community livelihoods through eco-tourism opportunities.

The project’s progress will be crucial for the successful restoration of cheetahs to their historic range in India and their role as top predators in the ecosystem. However, the recent deaths have raised concerns and highlighted the challenges in ensuring the long-term survival and conservation of these magnificent animals in their new home.


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