More than 70 years after the last known Asiatic cheetahs became extinct in the country, India welcomed eight African cheetahs from Namibia to Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park.
The project was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his birthday, September 17, in what is being described as a first-of-its-kind conservation project for cheetahs, as well as for the grasslands that make up their natural habitat.
But experts say that India does not have the habitat or prey species for wild, free-roaming African cheetahs, the project will not fulfil its aim of grassland conservation They say instead that conserving other threatened species, such as caracals and the Great Indian Bustard, should be the priority.
The name “cheetah” originates from Sanskrit and means “the spotted one”. The species is depicted in ancient Neolithic cave paintings in Central India. The subspecies found in Iran at present is the same one that disappeared from India in the 1940s, and were officially declared extinct in 1952.
Three cheetahs were shot in the Sal forests of Chhattisgarh’s Koriya District in 1948, the last cheetahs in the wild in India. Until the mid-1970s, there were infrequent claims of sightings from the Central and Deccan areas.