Second Cheetah Death in a Month: Challenges and Risks of India’s Cheetah Reintroduction Efforts Highlighted in Kuno National Park
A cheetah has died in India’s Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh state, marking the second death of the big cat in less than a month. The six-year-old male cheetah’s cause of death is yet to be determined, according to forest officials.
This cheetah was one of the 12 big cats that were brought to India from South Africa in February as part of the country’s efforts to reintroduce cheetahs, which were declared extinct in India more than 70 years ago. The first death occurred on 27 March, when a female cheetah from Namibia, who was among the first batch of animals brought to India, died of a suspected kidney ailment.
The reintroduction of cheetahs in India has generated excitement and has been making headlines. Last year, eight Namibian cheetahs, including five males and three females, were translocated to India amid fanfare. In February, 12 more cheetahs were brought from South Africa and kept in a controlled quarantine zone at Kuno National Park before being released into the wild. A team of forest officials and doctors have been monitoring their movements closely.
India also celebrated the birth of four cheetah cubs on 29 March, born to one of the females brought from Namibia in September 2022. India’s environment minister, Bhupendra Yadav, described it as a “momentous event”.
Cheetahs hold great symbolic value in India, as they are part of many folktales. However, they are also the only large mammal to have gone extinct in India since the country gained independence in 1947. The main reasons for their extinction in India were hunting, diminishing habitats, and lack of prey such as black buck, gazelle, and hare. During British rule, cheetahs were also targeted through bounty hunting as they were seen as a threat to livestock in villages.
While wildlife experts have welcomed the reintroduction of cheetahs in India, some have also expressed concerns about potential risks to the animals from other predators and the availability of enough prey for their survival. The recent deaths of the cheetahs in Kuno National Park highlight the challenges and risks associated with reintroducing a species that had been extinct in the region for several decades.