National

12 Cheetahs Likely To Be Flown In From South Africa To India Under Cheetah Revival Project

Due to the delay in the signing of the MoU for the inter-continental translocation of these big cats, some experts had last month expressed concern over the health of the South African cheetahs as these animals have been quarantined there since July 15.

Advertisement

Cheetahs released after quarantine at Kuno National Park
info_icon

An expert associated with India's Cheetah revival Project was quoted by PTI about a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between New Delhi and Pretoria (South Africa's administrative capital) last week under which Cheetah from South Africa are to be brought to India by mid-February. A dozen Cheetahs will be flown from South Africa after months of delay to the Kuno National Park (KNP) in Madhya Pradesh in the coming coming month.

The KNP currently houses eight such felines who were brought from Namibia last year under the Cheetah revival project. South Africa has donated these big cats to India. But India has to pay USD 3,000 for the capture of every cheetah to the African nation before they are translocated, he said.

Advertisement

KNP director Uttam Sharma said, "We are waiting for the arrival of 12 South African cheetahs. We have set up 10 quarantine bomas (enclosures) for them. In two of these facilities, two pairs of cheetah brothers would be kept."

Another MP forest department official said, "We have come to know that Pretoria has issued an order for the translocation of cheetahs after signing the MoU." Due to the delay in the signing of the MoU for the inter-continental translocation of these big cats, some experts had last month expressed concern over the health of the South African cheetahs as these animals have been quarantined there since July 15. As a result of long quarantine, these animals might have lost their fitness, they had said.

Advertisement

Prolonged quarantine could be taking a toll on the health of these big cats, who are slated to join the eight cheetahs imported from Namibia and released into the KNP in Sheopur district mid-September. In fact, the 12 South African cheetahs, seven males, and five females have not hunted for themselves even once after being kept in bomas, wildlife experts in the know of India's cheetah reintroduction plan, had said.

Three of them have been kept in Phinda quarantine boma in KwaZulu-Natal Province and nine in Rooiberg Quarantine boma in Limpopo Province since July 15, they said. They have lost fitness to a considerable extent as they have not hunted even once since July 15, one of the experts told PTI last month. They might have put on weight like humans sitting idle, he said.

Last month, South African Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Barbara Creecy cleared the Indian proposal on the translocation of cheetahs so that the South African president signs the final agreement, he added. Experts said that a delegation from South Africa visited the KNP in early September to see arrangements at the wildlife sanctuary for housing the world's fastest land mammals.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on his 72nd birthday on September 17, released eight cheetahs flown in from Namibia into the KNP amid a lot of fanfare, setting the ball rolling for the revival of their population in India where these distinctively spotted cat species became extinct seven decades ago. These fastest land animals from Namibia, five females and three males are currently in hunting enclosures at the park before their full release into the wild.

Advertisement

Five months back, India wanted to import eight cheetahs from Namibia and 12 from South Africa for their release into the KNP to add glitter to the 75th Independence Day celebrations. But the plan did not materialise, the wildlife experts said. In August, the 12 cheetahs selected by Indian officials for translocation had completed one month in quarantine, but they couldn't be airlifted to KNP in absence of approval from the South African government. Around Independence Day, the eight Namibian cheetahs had not completed their quarantine period, so the Indian government could not bring them to KNP as well, the experts said.

Advertisement

As per Indian wildlife laws, a month-long quarantine is mandatory before importing animals and they are required to be kept in isolation for another 30 days after arrival in the country. The experts said that the spotted animals' metapopulation (cheetah count in small and medium parks) in South Africa has risen to 504 from 217 in 2011.

The last cheetah died in India in the Koriya district of present-day Chhattisgarh in 1947 and the big cat species was declared extinct in 1952. Former Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh initiated 'Project Cheetah' in 2009 under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government with an aim to reintroduce wild cats in India.

Advertisement

(With PTI inputs)

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement