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India's Cheetah Translocation Project

  • 26 Apr 2023
  • 6 min read

For Prelims: Cheetah Reintroduction Plan, Kuno-Palpur National Park (KNP), Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary, Mukundara Tiger Reserve

For Mains: Challenges Associated with the Translocation of Cheetah in India,

Why in News?

India's ambitious Cheetah Translocation Project is facing a new set of challenges as two cheetahs have died, bringing the number of cheetahs left in the project to 18 out of the initial 20.

  • Uday, a six-year-old male cheetah, died on April 23, 2023, in Kuno National Park, and Sasha, a five-year-old female cheetah, died on March 27, 2023, in the same park.
  • Therefore, the government is now considering alternative conservation models, such as the South African model of conserving cheetahs in fenced reserves.

Were these Deaths Expected?

  • The project anticipated a high mortality rate, and its short-term goal was to achieve a 50% survival rate for the first year, which is 10 out of 20 cheetahs.
    • However, experts pointed out that the project had overestimated Kuno National Park's carrying capacity for cheetahs, and this added pressure on the project staff to look for alternative sites.
  • Causes of Death:
    • A South African study found that predation was the biggest killer, accounting for 53.2% of cheetah mortality. Lions, leopards, hyenas, and jackals were primarily responsible.
      • Cheetahs suffer very high cub mortality – up to 90% in protected areas – mainly due to predation.
      • In Africa, the lion is the chief predator of cheetahs; in India, where lions are absent (except in Gujarat), leopards are likely to slip into that role in potential cheetah landscapes.
    • Other causes of mortality can be holding camps, immobilization/transit, tracking devices, and other wildlife killing cheetah (cubs) including warthogs, baboons, snakes, elephants, crocodiles, vultures, zebras, and even ostriches.

South African Model for Conserving Cheetahs:

  • In South Africa, a conservation strategy called meta-population management was used to protect cheetahs.
  • This strategy involved moving cheetahs from one small group to another to ensure that they have enough genetic diversity and to maintain a healthy population.
  • This approach was successful in maintaining a viable population of cheetahs in South Africa; in 6 years, the meta-population grew to 328 cheetahs.

What are the Options Available to the Project?

Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary

  • It is located in Madhya Pradesh on the northern boundary of the Mandsaur and Nimach districts, adjoining Rajasthan
  • The landscape is characterized by vast open landscapes and rocky terrain
  • The vegetation includes northern tropical dry deciduous forest, mixed deciduous forest, and scrub
  • Some of the flora found in the sanctuary are Khair, Salai, Kardhai, Dhawda, Tendu, and Palash.
  • The fauna includes Chinkara, Nilgai, Spotted Deer, Striped Hyena, Jackal and crocodiles.

Mukundra Tiger Reserve

  • it is situated near Kota, Rajasthan, in a valley formed by two parallel mountains, Mukundra and Gargola.
  • The valley is bounded by four rivers - Ramzan, Ahu, Kali, and Chambal - and drained by their tributaries.
  • Protected area:
    • Mukundra Hills was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1955 and a National Park (Mukundra Hills (Darrah) National Park) in 2004.
  • Parks and sanctuaries:
    • Mukundra TR consists of three Wildlife Sanctuaries - Darrah, Jawahar Sagar, and Chambhal - and covers four districts of Rajasthan: Kota, Bundi, Chittorgarh, and Jhalawar.

Way Forward

  • The success of the cheetah project should align with India's traditional conservation ethos. India's conservation approach emphasizes protecting naturally dispersing wildlife in viable non-fragmented habitats.
  • The Cheetah Project can choose to cut the risk by settling for the South African model of retaining a few pocket populations in fenced-in reserves.
    • However, keeping cheetahs in leopard-proof enclosures might not be a sustainable solution. Also, repeated sedate-and-recover interventions to restrict cheetahs to sanctuaries and national parks can harm the animals.

UPSC Civil Services Examination Previous Year Question (PYQ)


Q. Consider the following: (2012)

  1. Black-necked crane
  2. Cheetah
  3. Flying squirrel
  4. Snow leopard

Which of the above are naturally found in India?

(a) 1, 2 and 3 only
(b) 1, 3 and 4 only 
(c) 2 and 4 only
(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Ans: (b)

Source: IE

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