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October 2023

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Project Cheetah Completes One Year: What We Know So Far..?

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September 17, 2022, stands as a pivotal moment in India’s wildlife conservation history, as it marked the return of the world’s fastest land animal to its native habitat after a nearly seven-decade absence. This remarkable achievement was realized through Project Cheetah, a visionary initiative overseen by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In a groundbreaking endeavor, eight African cheetahs from Namibia were successfully relocated to Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park, followed by the introduction of twelve cheetahs from South Africa in February 2023. This historic feat was executed under the vigilant guidance of an expert team comprising government officials, scientists, wildlife biologists, and veterinarians from Namibia, South Africa, and India.

Project Cheetah has already achieved four out of six short-term success criteria, including a 50% survival rate for introduced cheetahs, the establishment of home ranges, the birth of cubs in Kuno, and direct contributions to local communities through employment opportunities for cheetah trackers and an increase in land values in the surrounding areas.

The transcontinental relocation of these magnificent creatures was an audacious attempt to rectify past ecological imbalances. Notably, all 20 cheetahs made the journey without a single casualty.

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The reintroduced cheetahs are adapting remarkably well to their Indian environment, displaying natural behaviors such as hunting, territorial establishment, nurturing of cubs, and even courtship rituals. For the first time in 75 years, cheetah cubs were born on Indian soil.

Community support has been pivotal in safeguarding these cheetahs from threats like poaching, hunting, and accidents. Project Cheetah has not only provided employment opportunities for local communities but also plans to introduce more cheetahs from South Africa, Namibia, and other African countries in the coming years.

Preparations for alternative cheetah introductions are underway at Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary and Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary. The project also envisions the creation of facilities like the Cheetah Centre, Cheetah Research Centre, Interpretation Centre, Cheetah Management Training Centre, and Cheetah Safari.

Remarkably, two Namibian female cheetahs, initially reared in captivity, are displaying wild behavior and may soon be released into the wilderness after further evaluation and monitoring.

Project Cheetah, although challenging, has shown early signs of success. It aims to draw attention to the conservation of India’s dry grasslands while generating employment opportunities for local communities. Its accomplishments have the potential to set a global precedent for rewilding initiatives and species reintroduction through intercontinental efforts.

To commemorate the one-year success of Project Cheetah, an event was held at Sesaipura Forest Complex, Kuno National Park, Madhya Pradesh. The event was attended by officials from the Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), NTCA, and Madhya Pradesh Forest Department.

This milestone underscores India’s commitment to restoring ecological balance, protecting biodiversity, and nurturing ecosystems for a sustainable future, in alignment with Prime Minister Modi’s vision of Jan Bhagidari and the essence of Mission LiFE.

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