Namibia and India have agreed to a historic pact to relocate African cheetahs to a part of India where Asiatic cheetahs once roamed. Eight of the animals, four males and four females, are due to arrive from Namibia in August 2022 to coincide with commemorations of India’s 75th year of independence.
Cheetahs have been extinct in India for over 70 years.
India Minister Bhupender Yadav, who heads the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, tweeted that “restoring the fastest terrestrial flagship species, the cheetah, in India, will rekindle the ecological dynamics of the landscape."
"Cheetah reintroduction would also greatly enhance local community livelihoods through eco-tourism prospects in the long term," he added.
The “Action Plan for the Introduction of Cheetah in India,” unveiled in a January 2022 press release, was co-signed with Namibia’s Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah. As part of the announcement, Minister Yadav conveyed India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intention to conserve seven “major big cats” in India.
Minister Yadav said that “fifty cheetahs will be introduced in various national parks over five years.”
The new home for the first group of cheetahs is set to be the Kuno Palpur National Park in India’s Madhya Pradesh state. All villages have already been relocated outside this park, and the location has ample prey and grasslands.
The site can also sustain populations of tigers, leopards, and lions, as they naturally coexist with cheetahs.
Other sites considered for relocation are:
Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh
Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh
Shahgarh bulge, Rajasthan
Mukundara Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan
Cheetahs fight extinction because of human-wildlife conflict, loss of habitat and prey, and poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking.
In Iran, the Asiatic cheetah has almost disappeared, with about a dozen known survivors. In May, Iranian officials happily announced that three cheetah cubs were born in Touran Wildlife Refuge—the first cheetah births in captivity. However, two of the cubs died within the month.