India is attempting Project Cheetah, an ambitious effort to reestablish a cheetah population with cats from Namibia But there have been problems. The goal of the Project Cheetah review is to understand the deaths of study cheetahs.
India hopes to establish a breeding population over the next ten years. But the project is facing criticism after 8 of the study cats died.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is convening a high level conference Project Cheetah review, according to The Statesman. The Statesman is an English-India newspaper whose roots go back to 1875.
Deaths in the program were not unexpected as cheetahs have a high mortality rate in the wild. But since some of them may have been caused by programmatic failures, a review is believed to be needed. GPS collars improperly placed on the neck of study cats may have led to infection, the paper says. Improper monitoring may have resulted in deaths. Some news reports say the Project Cheetah manager has been replaced.
“Apart from Madhya Pradesh’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Wildlife, Aseem Shrivastava, members of the National Tiger Conservation Authority of India (NTCA), and members of the Cheetah Screening Committee, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is also likely to attend the virtual meeting,…” according to the newspaper.
Two male cheetahs died recently as did three of four cubs born to one of the females in the program. As many as three other cheetahs have died as well. Most of the deaths appear to be from natural causes but the review is ongoing anyway. Some experts reportedly expected a mortality rate of up to 50 percent.
Problems with GPS collars have turned up with tigers under study, too. India estimates an expected mortality rate among cats in conservation programs. A recent spike in tiger deaths was felt to be within normal limits.
Cheetahs are of great conservation concern. About 7,000 are alive in the world. The majority are in Africa with a small population in Iran. Project Cheetah hopes to add India to the short list. Iranian conservation groups are working in that country as well.
Prime Minister Modi is a strong backer of Indian efforts to protect wildlife. India is home to about half of the nearly 40 species of wild cats in the world. Project Tiger has been a success. Balancing the needs of cats, other wildlife, the landscape and people has been challenging. India is home to several cats of conservation concern including Asiatic lions (Panthero leo leo), , Manuls (Felis manul) , Indian leopards (Panthera pardus) and now cheetahs. The success with tigers – boosting their estimated numbers over 3,000 – has been lauded.