Cheetah Reintroduction: Govt Plans Bringing In 12-14 More Big Cats From Africa To India

Three months after eight cheetahs were released in the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh, Union Environment Minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey said on Thursday that 12-14 more of the big cats will be relocated from Africa over the next five years. 

Eight cheetas  five females and three males — that had been brought from Namibia were released in a dedicated zone in the Kuno National Park on September 17 this year by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as part of a reintroduction programme. The cheetahs — named Freddy, Alton, Savannah, Sasha, Obaan, Asha, Cibili, and Saisa — were brought to India 70 years after the big cat species was declared extinct in the country. 

Informing the Rajya Sabha about the government’s plans, Ashwini Kumar Choubey said: “The government has signed a MoU with the Government of the Republic of Namibia… As per Action Plan for introduction of cheetahs every year, depending upon availability of animals and status of the introduced cheetahs, 12-14 individuals are proposed to be brought from SouthAfrica and Namibia or other African countries over the next five years.” 

According to Choubey, the government had allocated Rs 38.7 crore from ‘Project Tiger’ for the re-introduction of cheetahs in India till 2025-26. The amount is in excess of the Rs 29.47 crore budgeted from the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA). The CAMPA fund has been allocated to cover the introduction, management, and maintenance of the cheetahs. 

The eight cheetahs that were released in the wilds of Madhya Pradesh are currently healthy and are being continuously monitored four high-resolution cameras and a team of 16 forest guards as they adapt to their new habitat. They had been kept in a quarantine zone for one month before being released into the wilds. All the big cats have made their first kills. 

Kuno field director Uttam Sharma was quoted as saying by: “The last individuals to be released from quarantine were three females, who joined the others in the larger enclosure last month. “Now they will adapt… explore the forest (a guarded six square km enclosure). They will kill prey to feed themselves. The males have acclimatised and are hunting. Now we expect females will too.” 

“There is no cheetah under quarantine, all eight cheetahs have been released in larger acclimatization enclosures. No health complications have been reported in the introduced cheetahs,” Choubey said.