Cheetahs in India: More releases planned

Seven more cheetahs are set to be released in India in the coming weeks, with a new committee set up to oversee the project. In the meantime, demands are being made to identify mistakes.
Katharina Moser
Amid growing criticism of the African cheetah reintroduction project in India, those responsible have announced that seven more of the big cats will be released into the national park by later this month. Among them are two females.
Currently, seven of the 17 remaining adult cheetahs have been left to roam wild in Kuno National Park.
In response to the deaths of three cheetahs and three cubs in the past two months, the newly established steering committee visited Kuno National Park to assess progress on Project Cheetah. The committee was set up by India's National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and is chaired by Rajesh Gopal, Secretary General of the Global Tiger Forum in New Delhi.
The committee is to oversee the project and advise those responsible in India. According to the Times of India, they should also consider the possibility of opening up the cheetah range for ecotourism, propose regulations and make recommendations for community participation. The committee was set up for two years and is to meet monthly.
Gopal also shared that the surviving cub, who has been in intensive care since the death of his three siblings from malnutrition and weakness, is in stable condition. He has gained 1.5 kg and there are plans to return him to his mother soon.
According to the Times of India, the committee has also set up an advisory panel consisting of international cheetah experts: Adrian Tordiffe from the University of Pretoria (South Africa), Dr Laurie Marker from the CCF (Cheetah Fund in Namibia), Dr Andrew John Fraser from the Olivenbosch farm (South Africa) and Vincent van der Merwe from the Cheetah Metapopulation Project in South Africa.
Meanwhile, in response to allegations that there is not nearly enough space for the cheetahs in Kuno National Park, Indian Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav announced that the Gandhi Sagar Sanctuary, southwest of Kuno National Park, is being prepared for cheetahs. He also announced that Indian staff involved in the cheetah project would be sent on a study trip to Namibia and South Africa.
In the meantime, CCF Director Dr Laurie Marker again emphasized in interviews that some deaths have to be expected and that despite challenges, the project is running successfully.
But even in project circles, doubts have been raised. A source familiar with the project told this publication that it is time that those responsible, especially from the CCF, face their mistakes. Indian officials have not been adequately trained by the CCF in dealing with cheetahs, let alone with cubs. "With all the cheetah experts in the room, why has no one informed Indian officials to ensure the cheetah family had enough water and food during a 47-degree heat wave?" the source said.