South Africa To Send Dozen Cheetahs to India for 8-10 Years, First Batch in Feb

Reports also suggest that one of the eight cheetahs brought in from Namibia and currently in an enclosure in Kuno Nationa Park is unwell.

New Delhi: India and South Africa have inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will see the translocation of 12 cheetahs from the latter country to the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh in February 2023, and will be followed by a dozen big cats every year for the next eight to ten years.

While the arrival of the first dozen cheetahs – which will join the eight in Kuno that were translocated from Namibia last year as part of the ambitious Project Cheetah endeavour – was expected, the agreement to replicate this arrangement for the next “eight-ten years” was new.

The MoU has been in the works for some time and was officially announced by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on Friday, January 27.

The MoU between India and South Africa

The first batch of cheetahs will arrive in February, the ministry has confirmed. Earlier, PTI had quoted officials as saying that the 12 individuals include nine cheetahs that have been quarantined at the Rooiberg Veterinary Services in Limpopo province, and three others quarantined at Phinda game reserve in KwaZulu-Natal province.

Seven male and five female cheetahs will be brought in as part of the MoU between India and South Africa, as per reports. This will bring the total number of cheetahs to 20. Eight African cheetahs had already been brought in from Namibia in September last year. Down To Earth reported that an Indian delegation would leave for South Africa in February to bring the 12 big cats to India.

The MoU had been in the works for some time and the South African minister of environment, forestry and fisheries, Barbara Creecy, had cleared India’s proposal to translocate cheetahs in November, PTI reported. Authorities had been awaiting clearance for a formal agreement between both countries by the South African president.

In December last year, wildlife experts expressed concern that the 12 cheetahs, which had been identified for translocation to India in July 2022 were losing fitness as they were restricted to bomas or small enclosures in South Africa due to the delay in the inking of the MoU.

In a press release, the MoEFCC said that restoring cheetah populations in India “will have vital and far-reaching conservation consequences, which would aim to achieve a number of ecological objectives”.

Cheetahs were endemic to India but became extinct in the 1950s due to decades of over-hunting and loss of habitat.

Also read: The Other Problems With Bringing African Cheetahs to India

‘Sasha’ unwell

Meanwhile, one of the eight cheetahs brought in from Namibia and currently in an enclosure in Kuno, is unwell, and may possibly die, as per news reports.

Sasha, a five-year-old female, showed signs of dehydration around four days ago, Down To Earth quoted officials as saying on January 25. She is currently isolated from the other cheetahs in Kuno in a quarantine boma and is under “constant observation” and treatment, the news outlet quoted Madhya Pradesh principal chief conservator of forest, J.C. Chauhan, as saying.

According to some reports, Sasha is experiencing renal failure and her chances of survival are bleak.

Cheetahs in the R-Day parade

Cheetahs also made it to the Republic Day parade as India celebrated its 74th Republic Day on January 26. In the Central Public Works Department’s tableau that celebrated biodiversity including hornbills, a model of a cheetah found a prominent place.

Note: This article was originally published at 6:20 pm on January 26, 2023 and republished at 4:15 pm on January 27, 2023.