South Africa Reaches Deal with India on Cheetah Transfer
On Thursday, January 26, 2023, South Africa announced that it had reached a deal to transfer more than 100 cheetahs to India as part of a long-dreamt-of project to reintroduce the fastest cats on the planet to the south Asian country. S. Africa’s environment ministry stated that an initial shipment of 12 cheetahs would be flown to India the following month after sending eight cheetahs from Namibia in September 2022.
“The plan is to translocate a further 12 annually for the next eight to 10 years” to assist in establishing a “viable and secure cheetah population,” the ministry noted in their statement.
India was once home to the Asiatic cheetah but they were placed on the extinction list by 1952, primarily due to habitat loss and big game safari hunters who thought it was cool to take their hides. Efforts to reintroduce the big cats took off in 2020 when India’s Supreme Court ruled that African cheetahs — a related but different subspecies — could be introduced into the country at a “carefully chosen location” on an experimental basis initially.
Cheetahs in South Africa
Negotiations for the deal with South Africa were on-going, with the first cheetahs expected to be transported to India last August. In the meantime, they have been living in quarantine to ensure their health remains good before exposing other wildlife in south Asia to the animals.
“The cheetahs in quarantine… are all still doing well,” acknowledged Adrian Tordiffe, a veterinary wildlife specialist at S. Africa’s University of Pretoria who is involved in the introduction project. It’s not exactly a reintroduction due to the fact that the animals are not Asiatic cheetahs, but it is a reintroduction of sorts.
Officials involved in the operation said that the previous Cheetah transfer from Namibia marked the first intercontinental relocation of cheetahs. The Namibian cheetahs were released at Kuno National Park, a wildlife sanctuary 200 miles south of New Delhi. The location was chosen for its abundant prey and grasslands, which are ideal for the large, spotted cats.
Appreciation for Wildlife
With this gradual transfer comes the hope that citizens will gain insight into the need for the animals and their impact on the health of the environment, as well as developing into a new-found appreciation for wildlife amongst the general population. One can always hope, but it’s said that the last Asiatic cheetahs in India, three males from the same litter, were killed in 1948 by the Maharajah Ramanuj Pratap.Whizzco