Concern over cheetah project in India

Ellanie Smit
India’s top court has advised moving the translocated cheetahs from Namibia and South Africa after three deaths in less than two months.
Since the first group of cheetahs was brought to India last year to reintroduce extinct cheetahs to India, one Namibian and two South African cheetahs have died, all within 45 days, due to different reasons.
Twenty cheetahs from South Africa (12) and Namibia (8) were translocated to the Kuno National Park (KNP) of Madhya Pradesh in 2022 under "Project Cheetah" more than 70 years after the animals were declared extinct in India.
A female cheetah from Namibia, Sasha, died due to a kidney ailment on 27 March. Uday, a South African cheetah, died in April due to cardio-pulmonary failure. Another South African female cheetah named Daksha died on 9 March following a violent interaction with a male during a mating attempt.
There are also reports of two Namibian cheetahs straying out of the Kuno forest, resulting in repeated rescues by the forest department.
Namibia’s environment ministry spokesperson, Romeo Muyunda, said that they hope that these are just isolated incidents and that the remaining cheetahs from both Namibia and South Africa will thrive.
“It is only one Namibian cheetah that died and it was due to illness, not because of conditions in India. We know that one of the Namibian cheetahs gave birth to four cubs, which is good news. As far as we are concerned, we have not had any unfortunate incidents or sad news about the four cubs. We believe they are all in good health.”
Muyunda said that there is no need for concern as the cheetahs are being monitored closely to make sure they can go into the wild to hunt and survive on their own.
The Supreme Court of India said the three deaths in a short period were a matter of serious concern, noting that the Kuno National Park seems insufficient for such large numbers of cheetahs.
It suggested that the cheetahs be relocated to Rajasthan.
These incidents have led to international wildlife experts raising questions about the expanse of Kuno National Park and the number of cheetahs lodged there.
In a paper published in Conservation Science and Practice in April 2023, researchers observed that because of Kuno National Park’s small area, the cheetahs may stray far beyond the park’s boundaries. The Kuno National Park is spread over an area of about 748 square kilometres and is open from all sides.