Cheetah Population in Kuno National Park Grows

Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, has recently announced that South African cheetah ‘Gamini’ has given birth to five cubs at Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh’s Sheopur. This new litter brings the total number of Indian-born cheetah cubs to 13, and the overall cheetah population in the park to 26.

Gamini’s litter marks the fourth cheetah birth on Indian soil since the launch of ‘Project Cheetah’ in September 2022. It is also the first litter born to cheetahs brought from South Africa. Previously, Namibian cheetahs Jwala and Aasha had given birth in the park.

Jwala’s Litters: Success and Tragedy

Jwala, a cheetah from Namibia, had earlier given birth twice in Kuno National Park. Her first litter, born in March 2023, consisted of four cubs. However, three of the four cubs died due to heat stress, dehydration, and alleged negligence by officials. The sole surviving cub from this litter is being hand-raised in the park and reportedly suffered a foot fracture, which was treated by the authorities.

Controversial Project Cheetah

India’s ‘Project Cheetah’ has been the subject of controversy in recent years. Several international experts who were initially part of the project claim they have been dropped by Indian authorities and not kept informed about the project’s progress. Additionally, seven adult cheetahs brought from Africa have died in Kuno National Park since the project’s inception.

Cheetah Translocation and Population Growth

In September 2022, eight cheetahs from Namibia were introduced to Kuno National Park as part of ‘Project Cheetah‘. In February 2023, an additional 12 cheetahs from South Africa were translocated and released into the park. Despite the loss of Namibian cheetah Shaurya, who died while undergoing veterinary treatment on January 16, 2023, the cheetah population in the park has grown significantly due to successful breeding.

Concerns and Criticisms

While government officials and those involved in ‘Project Cheetah’ celebrate the project as a huge success, with more than half of the introduced cheetahs surviving, wildlife experts and scientists have expressed concerns about the progress of the introduction project. They argue that despite spending months on Indian soil, the cheetahs are not truly living in the wild and are confined to enclosures for extended periods.

A wildlife expert had previously shared concerns that South African cheetahs were not being introduced for mating and questioned why the cheetahs were not being released into the wild. The expert also raised concerns about the cheetahs being kept confined to enclosures for months.



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