India’s cheetah reintroduction project: Responsible or reckless?


Decades after the species was declared extinct in India, eight cheetahs scurried into the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.

More will follow, but these initial eight – which were flown in from Namibia – represent a big feather in India’s cap to restore a lost treasure. They’ll be kept in an enclosed area to acclimate to the local environment before being released into the open and monitored via tracking collars.

Why We Wrote This

Advocates of India’s cheetah reintroduction project say they’re driven by a sense of national responsibility. But others argue the single-minded push to bring back the big cat is more reckless than responsible.

SP Yadav, member secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority and head of the cheetah reintroduction project, says the “only mammal that has been lost in independent India is the cheetah. So it becomes our moral and ethical responsibility to bring them back.”

However, the first-of-its-kind transplant also has many critics. Some believe the $11 million project is a waste of taxpayer money, and question whether the long-extinct species can thrive beyond captivity. Others feel India’s first priority should be protecting the species that still naturally exist on the subcontinent, including its endangered grassland habitats.

For Wildlife Conservation Trust President Anish Andheria, the project’s success hinges on whether it helps raise awareness and funds to protect the grassland biome. “Otherwise, an addition of one more carnivore … is not going to solve much.”

The world’s fastest land animal is making its way back to India – slowly.

On Sept. 17, decades after the species was declared extinct on the subcontinent and 13 years after conservation efforts to reintroduce the big cat began, eight African cheetahs scurried into the Kuno National Park in Central India’s Madhya Pradesh.

More will follow, say conservationists, but these eight – five females and three males – represent a big feather in India’s cap to restore a lost treasure. However, the first-of-its-kind transplant from Namibia also has many critics. Some believe the $11 million project is a waste of taxpayer money, and question whether the long-extinct species can thrive beyond captivity.

Why We Wrote This

Advocates of India’s cheetah reintroduction project say they’re driven by a sense of national responsibility. But others argue the single-minded push to bring back the big cat is more reckless than responsible.

But proponents say they have a responsibility to try.

“The only mammal that has been lost in independent India is the cheetah. So it becomes our moral and ethical responsibility to bring them back,” says SP Yadav, member secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority and head of the cheetah reintroduction project.

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