India Tried to Re-introduce Cheetahs to the Wild. It Didn’t Go Well

Last September, eight radio-collared cheetahs made the 5,000-mile-long journey from Namibia to India, eventually landing at Kuno National Park in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. Their arrival marked the final phase of a 13-year-long effort called Project Cheetah, which aims to reintroduce the big cat species to India’s grasslands 70 years after they were hunted into oblivion. 

The project’s launch also coincided with the 72nd birthday of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who celebrated by personally releasing the first cat from its crate into the park. “Decades ago, the age-old link of biodiversity that was broken and became extinct, today we have a chance to restore it, ” Modi said in his address. “Today, the cheetah has returned to the soil of India.”

Authorities have recaptured the remaining cats and kept them in enclosures for close monitoring and supervision, where they will continue to remain until a government-appointed committee of wildlife experts approves their re-release into the wild.

Asiatic cheetahs once roamed the grasslands of the Indian subcontinent for many centuries alongside lions, tigers, and leopards until they became a hunting target of princely rulers and British colonizers. In 1952, they were officially declared extinct in India.

Following the relocation of the first six cats from Namibia, a second group of cheetahs arrived from South Africa in February. About a dozen more cats are planned to be brought from African countries every year for the next five years in an attempt to establish a cheetah population of around 40. The Indian government plans to spend 40 crore rupees, or nearly $11 million, on the project.

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Source of data and images: time

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