Project Cheetah is billed as the world’s first transnational transfer of endangered predators. Eight Namibian cheetahs are slated to arrive in India now that legal hurdles are cleared and India’s prime minister has signed the authorization. The project hopes to relocate 50 of the cats eventually.
Project Cheetah was conceived in 2008 according to The Hindu.com news, but implementation was delayed until recently.
The Hindu quoted a government tweet:
“The proposal for ‘Project Cheetah’ was prepared in 2008-09. Manmohan Singh’s government gave approval to it. The then Forest and Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, went to Cheetah outreach centre in South Africa in April 2010,” the Congress said in a tweet.
In 2013, the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the Cheetah Reintroduction Programme and in 2020 allowed it, the party said, adding that now the cheetahs are coming.”
What the legal objections were was not stated.
Cheetah Outreach is a South African conservation group. On its website the group says the world’s cheetah population has dropped to about 7,000. Cheetah Outreach says it is concerned most with South African cheetahs that live outside of parks and reserves on private land.
As usual, the Indian project has its share of critics within and without government and conservation circles. The Wire Science listed a number of these. Cheetahs are not native to India, critics say, and have been locally extinct since the 1950’s. Therefore reintroduction should be lower priority than support for native species, particularly the Asiatic Lion, which is confined to the Gir forest. However, the government cites the needs to improve India’s grasslands. Cheetahs and their prey are expected to do that.
Other critics fear the cheetahs will be killed and eaten by leopards and tigers, but some counter that the animals coexist with numerous predators in Africa and should be able to survive in India. There are questions about the project’s viability and the suitability of habitat. Indian officials are taking a “wait and see” approach to the criticisms as the plan moves ahead.
The cheetah’s range has shrunk to eastern and southern Africa with the possibility of up to a few hundred surviving in Iran.
We have discussed cheetah conservation before. Theft of cheetah cubs
seems to be hastening the decline in numbers. The Iranian Cheetah Society is working to protect Iranian cheetahs and other wildlife. Pumas, or cougars are found from deep in south America to Canada and is fairly widespread. Jaguarundis are small cats living in central and South America.