GS Paper - 3 (Environment)

Seven decades after it was reported extinct in India, the cheetah was reintroduced in the country on 17 September 2022. Under ‘Project Cheetah’, the Central government is “re-introducing” eight African cheetahs – five females and three males -- at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.

What is the Project Cheetah?

  1. Project Cheetah was approved by the Supreme Court of India in January 2020 as a pilot programme to reintroduce the species to India.
  2. The concept of bringing the cheetah back was first put forth in 2009 by Indian conservationists, along with Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), a not-for-profit organisation, headquartered in Namibia, which works towards saving and rehabilitating the big cat in the wild.
  3. In July 2020, India and the Republic of Namibia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), with the Namibian government agreeing to donate the eight felines to launch the programme.
  4. This is the first time that a wild southern African cheetah introduced in India, or anywhere in the world.

How did cheetahs go extinct in India?

  1. The cheetah has an ancient history in the country, with a Neolithic cave painting of a ‘slender spotted feline being hunted’ having been found at Chaturbunj Nala in Mandasur, Madhya Pradesh.
  2. The name ‘cheetah’ is believed to have originated from Sanskrit word chitrak, which means ‘the spotted one’.
  3. The cheetah is believed to have disappeared from the Indian landscape in 1947 when Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo of Koriya princely state hunted down and shot the last three recorded Asiatic cheetahs in India.
  4. The cheetah was officially declared extinct by the Indian government in 1952.

Why are cheetahs being reintroduced?

  1. The major purpose of the project is to develop healthy meta-populations in India that allow the cheetah to execute its functional role as a top predator.
  2. The cheetah is a flagship grassland species; whose conservation also helps in preserving other grassland species in the predator food chain.