WFY Today

The Beautiful And Vibrant Indian Cheetah Family Grows

A small number of Southeast African cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus) have been flown in from Namibia and South Africa to a national park in India, more than 70 years after the Asiatic cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus), India’s original subspecies of cheetahs, went extinct there. The Indian Supreme Court has approved the experiment, which will assess long-term adaptability on a temporary basis. Nowadays, the Asiatic subtype is only found in Iran, where its population is in grave danger.

With the sighting of five fresh cubs on Saturday, the number of Indian-born cheetahs within Kuno National Park in the Sheopur area is currently at 13. With 26 cheetahs overall, including cubs, in Kuno, India’s massive conservation initiative has reached a major turning point. According to officials, the project is moving along the intended path.

South African cheetah Gamini has given birth to five pups, according to a Sunday announcement made by Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav. Furthermore, this is a South African cheetah’s first litter. They were made by Namibians earlier.

The Metapopulation Initiative’s Vincent van der Merwe rejoiced over the cubs’ birth. Because they are enormous, delicate predators, cheetahs are very difficult to reintroduce. In South Africa, nine out of ten reintroduction attempts were unsuccessful. Because we never gave up and learned from our failures, South Africa is now home to an increasing number of wild cheetahs. We are really proud of our Indian colleagues for their persistence. The recent births mark the start of wild cheetah populations’ comeback throughout their historical range in Asia.

The Namibian Cheetah Jwala brought three pups from its second litter in January. In its first litter, she had given birth to four pups, one of whom lived. Three new family members had been welcomed into the Kuno household by Cheetah Aasha earlier. Since PM Narendra Modi started this effort, ten cheetahs have lost their lives. Project Cheetah suffered a setback in May 2023 when three of the four cubs born to Jwala perished due to extreme heat, with temperatures as high as 46–47 degrees Celsius—the highest point of the summer.

In response to the tragedy, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) established a “Cheetah Project Steering Committee” to monitor the project’s advancement. A group of German researchers in Namibia expressed concerns about Kuno National Park’s cheetah-carrying capacity.

According to experts, it is impossible to pinpoint the exact carrying capacity of cheetahs in the park until after they have established their home ranges. On September 17, 2022, eight Namibian cheetahs made their way into Kuno National Park.

After being moved, all eight were placed in small bomas for quarantine. On January 17, 2023, the first of these cheetahs was released into a network of larger bomas. These facilities were built to give African cheetahs the opportunity to acclimatise to the new prey species found in the Indian subcontinent: nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus), spotted deer (Axis axis), and sambar deer (Rusa unicolor). There have been no reports of cheetahs preying on cattle or Eurasian boars (Sus scrofa cristatus), despite the fact that a small number of animals were housed inside these bomas.

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