Project Cheetah: What happened to Indian Cheetahs 7 decades ago?  | The Financial Express

Project Cheetah: What happened to Indian Cheetahs 7 decades ago? 

The re-location of the five females and three male cubs between the ages of 4-6 years is a part of India’s Rs 90-crore Cheetah Introduction project.

Project Cheetah: What happened to Indian Cheetahs 7 decades ago? 
It's believed that the cheetah went extinct from India in 1947

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his 72nd birthday released eight cubs of Cheetah at the Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. The animals were flown in from Namibia, which today has the highest cheetah population This brings the big cat back to India after 70 years after being declared extinct. The re-location of the five females and three male cubs between the ages of 4-6 years is a part of India’s Rs 90-crore Cheetah Introduction project.

In total, India was supposed to receive 20 cheetahs this year, with 12 coming from South Africa and eight from Namibia. However, the Environment Ministry officials noted that the South African government still hasn’t given its approval. This is the first time in the world that a large carnivore was relocated from one continent to another.

History of cheetahs in India and how did they go extinct

The cheetah’s history in India dates back to Neolithic times when a cave painting of a creature that looked like a spotted feline was discovered in Mandasur, in the state of Madhya Pradesh. It’s believed that the name cheetah came from the Sanskrit word ‘chitrak’, which literally means “the spotted one.”

In India, the cheetah population was fairly widespread. The animal was commonly seen in various areas such as Lucknow and Jaipur and also in Mysore, Kathiawar, and even in the east.

Also Read: Historic! Cheetah back in India after 70 years – See brilliant photos

It’s believed that the cheetah went extinct from India in 1947 after the Koriya’s ruler, Ramanuj Singhdeo, killed the last three Asiatic cheetahs in the country. The animal was officially declared extinct only in 1952.

Why the population of Cheetah decreased drastically in India post independence

Over-hunting by the royals was one of the predominant reasons for the depleting Cheetah population in India. Moreover, the loss of grassland-forest habitat also contributed to it as post-independence, India’s tried to acquire grassland to turn them into agricultural fields.

Not just in India, Cheetahs went missing in 14 other countries, mostly middle -eastern like Iraq, Jordan, Afghanistan, African nations, and also from Pakistan.

India’s earlier attempts at bringing back the big cats

The aim of this historic translocation is to restore India’s ‘historic evolutionary balance’, develop a cheetah ‘metapopulation’, and also to revive grassland forests, much like Project Tiger.

In 2009, the government of India started work on relocating cheetahs to the country. In 2020, the Supreme Court of India gave its approval to translocation. An expert committee was then formed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to study the various sites where the animals could be relocated.

During the 1970s, the Chairman of the Wildlife Trust of India, Dr. Ranjitsinh was tasked with negotiating with Iran for the translocation of cheetahs.

Dr. Ranjitsinh informed the Indian Express that, during the negotiations, Iran agreed to provide the cheetah, but the country needed to improve the conditions of the release sites in order to protect the animals. But Emergency was declared in the country during the course of the negotiations and then the regime of the Shah of Iran fell.

Translocation of Persian cheetah from Iran is no longer possible because the country’s cheetah population has dwindled to just 50 in the last few decades.

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