What does cheetah reintroduction mean for Kuno National Park?


What does cheetah reintroduction mean for Kuno National Park?

It was seven decades ago when this cat species was declared extinct in India. The Asiatic cheetah, more than 70 years ago, went extinct in India, mostly due to poaching. Now, in a very exciting turn of events, eight African cheetahs were brought to India today from Namibia as a part of
Project Cheetah, the world’s first inter-continental large wild carnivore translocation project.

Today, September 17, 2022, India celebrated Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 72nd birthday, and the PM released the Namibian cheetahs into the Kuno National Park’s designated enclosure.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the whole country eagerly waited to welcome the African cheetahs, flown in on a special cargo flight for 10 hours from Namibia to Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. From Gwalior, the eight cheetahs were flown by two Indian Air Force choppers to Palpur, near Kuno National Park.

What does cheetah reintroduction mean for Kuno National Park?

As of now, the cheetahs are released into a quarantine enclosure at the park, which is now the new home to these eight feline newcomers. This reintroduction project is an effort to revitalise and diversify Indian wildlife and cheetah habitat.
The national park, first established in 1981 as a wildlife sanctuary, and later in 2018 as a national park, is a part of the Khathiar-Gir dry deciduous forests ecoregion. But one question comes to mind, why Kuno National Park for this reintroduction project?

Kuno’s geography consists of vast grasslands, open forest patches and hills, perfect for the big cats. Just like tigers have helped the forest ecosystem, we are hopeful that the cheetahs will help revitalise the open grassland ecosystem, which is facing the threat of extinction and also the improved protection of various species that are the cheetah’s natural prey. For this project, another 413 sq km was added to the national park.

What does cheetah reintroduction mean for Kuno National Park?

The cheetahs, five females and three males, aged between 4 to 6 years of age, now share the park with Indian leopard, jungle cat, sloth bear, dhole, Indian wolf, golden jackal, striped hyena, Bengal fox. Their prey base includes ungulates like chital, Sambar deer, nilgai, four-horned antelope, chinkara, blackbuck and wild boar. One can’t deny the concerns about the well-being of the cheetahs in the wild where there are apex predators like the leopard and wolves. But one can only hope that nature will play itself out and the cheetahs will be able to thrive in Kuno. One can hope for this project to work.

Project Cheetah is also expected to boost ecotourism in the region. It goes without saying that now that the authorities have brought the cheetahs to their new home in India, they need to work towards protecting the wildlife from the main threat that once wiped the cheetah population off the face of India – humans. Can Kuno National Park have the same kind of attention and stricter rules as some of the major national parks in India?

  1. Where is Kuno National Park?
    Kuno National Park is in Saran Aharwani in Madhya Pradesh
  2. How many African cheetahs were brought to India?
    Eight African cheetahs were reintroduced in India.
  3. What is Project Cheetah?
    ‘Project Cheetah’ is world’s first inter-continental large wild carnivore translocation project. Under this project, eight African cheetahs were brought to India.


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