Relocating Cheetahs in India: Everything you wanted to know

Supreme Court of India which in 2012 ordered that Asiatic lions, and not Cheetahs, be relocated in Madhya Pradesh, agreed in 2020 to the government’s plea in favour of Cheetahs

Relocating Cheetahs in India: Everything you wanted to know

NH Web Desk

Five female and three male Cheetahs from Namibia landed in India on Saturday morning in a special cargo plane. They were then air-lifted to Madhya Pradesh in a Air Force helicopter. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is celebrating his 72nd birthday today, will be releasing them later this morning. 

Indian Oil Corporation will be contributing Rs 50 crore over the next five years for the project. 

The project to relocate Cheetahs, said to have become extinct in the country 75 years ago, had begin in the 1970s but had made little headway before the Supreme Court’s ruling stalled it in 2012.

There are around 30 surviving Asiatic Cheetahs in Iran. They are on the verge of extinction for various reasons and also partly because the six remaining Cheetah experts in Iran were arrested in 2016 for spying, says a report in National Geographic.

Cheetahs are more docile than other big cats and prey on the weakest animals, also the sick among them. Every time they kill goats and other domesticated animals, villagers set out to kill them. They thus require large forests and uninhabited areas to themselves, which is a rarity in India. That is why a large section of experts are sceptical about the Cheetah relocation project.

Here are 8 pointers to the controversial project:

  1. Supreme Court’s order to relocate Asiatic Cheetahs from Gujarat, where all the 600 surviving lions are found, to other reserves could not be implemented because of resistance by the Gujarat Government.

  2. Eight Cheetahs from Namibia and 12 Cheetahs from South Africa are expected to be released in the Kuno reserve in Madhya Pradesh after they spend a month each in quarantine.

  3. Cheetah experts agree that it is a ‘high risk’ project and a large number of the animals are likely to get killed by people and other big cats.

  4. Experts also warn that for the project to succeed, 500 to 1000 Cheetahs are required to be relocated in different reserves in India.

  5. India’s population having increased manifold since 1947, when the last of the Asiatic Cheetahs, it is believed, were killed, experts are divided on the viability of the project. Sceptics say there are no scientific reasons for the relocation but as an attention-seeking scheme, it made sense.

  6. While all the Cheetahs brought in will have radio collars to track their movement 24X7, experts have also expressed doubts about the feasibility of high-cost monitoring and management that will be required.

  7. Conservationists who have favoured the project point towards the need for promoting bio-diversity. They also believe that as in African countries like South Africa, Malawi and Namibia, the Cheetahs will help promote eco-tourism. 

  8. While there is no scientific evidence to establish that the last three Cheetahs were shot dead in 1947 by the Maharaja of Korawi, as is generally believed, it is known that even before 1947 the royalty in India imported Cheetahs, along with trained hounds and falcons, for hunting. Some were kept as pets.

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