by Ishaan Rajan
Cheetahs have been extinct in India since 1952, after over 70 years of extinction with unsuccessful efforts to reintroduce them to India’s national parks and wildlife. However that has changed since September 17th 2022, otherwise known as Narendra Modi’s birthday, when twenty big cats were moved from Namibia (South Africa) to India. They were moved in batches, the first of which is reported to be in an age group of two to six years.They have five males and three females. When the Cheetahs were finally transported to the city of Gwalior(Madhya Pradesh), they were transferred to the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh. Spanning for a distance of 289 square miles, the park is known to have prey like boars and deer for the cheetahs to hunt.
They will be quarantined (for healthcare purposes) in a space surrounded by an electric fence for around a month before they can be released to the open wild. Each cheetah has a respective team of volunteers who will track their habits and movements. For extra measure, a radio satellite collar has been fitted around each of the cheetahs necks to provide their geolocation. The national park officials have also explained that the cheetahs won’t be harmed by any animal within the site, as the park has been fully examined for any possible threats to the Cheetahs.
Experts working on the cheetah reintroduction project have stated that some of the main reasons the cheetah went extinct was because a large number of them were killed by shepherds and herders during the period of colonial India. Others were killed by hunters when they were responsible for the death of livestock in villages. But now even as the Cheetahs are close to being freed in India, there are still potential problems that stand in the way of this project. Devavrat Pawar, a conservationist and doctoral student has stated that Cheetahs co-existing with tigers, leopards and lions at the same time could prove to be problematic since the Cheetahs are still young and are yet to adapt to the Indian wildlife especially with other predatory races in the region.
While that is a problem in itself there is a whole other issue involving the relocation of individuals in Bagcha village (located within the Kuno National park) to further regions. This is apparently being done to create a larger space for the Cheetahs. A resident of Bagcha village, Guttu Adivasi, has firmly asserted how every person in the village has a right to compensation for relocation and if they are going to be relocated, either everyone in the village goes or nobody will. While Baghca has been resettled last to ensure a safe zone for the wild cats, the rest of the 24 villages consisting of a population around 5000 have been safely resettled. The Government of Madhya Pradesh has promised to provide the local villagers with revenue status to the land in which the villagers will be now living in to compensate for the cost of resettling.
It is definitely apparent that there are many flaws involved with this Cheetah reintroduction project but overall it seems like a huge portion of India’s population is welcoming the Cheetah back to India and there is excitement to finally reintroduce the big cats which have been extinct in the nation for a long seventy years, when they are finally released from quarantine.