Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus ) face a precarious future. A few Asiatic cheetahs (Acinonx jubatus venaticus) survive in Iran. Most cheetahs live in Africa. The fleet cats are poached, their cubs are stolen and they face deadly competition from other predators. Which is where Project Cheetah comes in.
The cats have been extinct in India, once a major homeland, since the 1950’s. That is changing. The Indian government is determined to reintroduce the cats and “Project Cheetah” is the vehicle.
According to ANI, a South Asian multi media news agency, a dozen cheetahs arrived from Namibia in February. The cats joined the first eight cheetahs brought in some months back. The goal is to introduce 100 of the cats into India and hope they begin to thrive. Cheetahs are the fastest land animal, adapted to high-speed chases to catch fleet prey. It is hoped their reintroduction will make positive impacts on the diversity of Indian wildlife.
Project Cheetah is one of a number of major projects India has undertaken in an effort to protect its iconic wildlife.
According to World Atlas:
“Wildcat “conservation efforts across India are commendable. The nation’s efforts are highlighted by the recovery of tiger and Asiatic lion populations. Over the years, Asiatic lions were hunted to the brink of extinction across the region. By the 1900s, only 20 lions remained in Western India. Since then, conservation efforts at the Gir Conservation Area have led to a rise in Asiatic lion numbers to an estimated 600 individuals. Wildcat conservation in the country is conducted by both the government and conservation groups like the Wildlife Conservation Trust, Gujarat State Lion Conservation Society, Wildcats Conservation Alliance, and the Wildlife Protection Society of India, and others.”
Gir lion numbers are increasing.
India’s cats range from the tiny rusty spotted cat (about 3 lbs) up to lions and tigers which can weigh in at 500 pounds or more. the efforts to conserve and save them are controversial. India is home to 15 (now 16) of the world’s 37 or so cat species. Many of the cats face extinction challenges and the government must juggle the interests of each cat, their prey and their human neighbors.
There is nothing simple about conservation. India’s successful efforts at tiger conservation have drawn fire. Critics say the efforts have been “tiger-centric” and cause harm to leopards and other species endangered in India. Others says the efforts are government mandated and largely ignore the needs of the people who must live with the wild animals. especially predators.
Some critics think that more effort should be placed on preserving what India has rather than going to the effort of reintroducing locally extinct animals. Other iconic wildlife, such as Indian leopards (Panthera pardus fusca) are also in danger of extinction.