Extinct In India, Cheetahs Set To Be Reintroduced From South Africa : Daily Current Affairs

Relevance: GS-3: Environment and conservation-related issues.

Key Phrases: Cheetah reintroduction, Kuno Palpur wildlife sanctuary, Asiatic Cheetah, African Cheetah, Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, Cheetah Conservation Fund.

Why in News?

  • The first batch of cheetahs is expected to arrive in India’s Kuno Palpur wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh by this August
  • The timing chimes with India celebrating 75 years of independence which the Centre has been building up to, as part of the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ campaign.
  • India aspires to import at least 30 cheetahs in the next five years.


  • Cheetah, (Acinonyx jubatus), one of the world’s most-recognizable cats, is known especially for its speed.
  • They are considered native to Africa and central Iran.
  • Asiatic cheetah is believed to survive only in Iran.


  • Cheetahs can live in a variety of habitats but prefer to live in grasslands and open plains.

Physical Characteristics of Asiatic Cheetah

  • Smaller and paler than the African cheetah. Has more fur, a smaller head, and a longer neck. Usually have red eyes and they have a more cat-like appearance.

Conservation Status of Asiatic Cheetah

  • IUCN- Critically Endangered (African Cheetah is in Vulnerable Category)
  • CITES- Appendix 1 (Same as African Cheetah)

Why and when did the cheetah go extinct?

  • The cheetah is the only large carnivore to have gone extinct in India, primarily due to hunting and habitat loss.
  • Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo of Korea, Madhya Pradesh, is widely believed to have killed the last three recorded cheetahs in India in 1947.
  • In 1952, the Indian government officially declared the Cheetah extinct in the country.

Hunting with the cheetahs:

  • For centuries, hunting was a favoured activity for royalty in India. The cheetah, which was relatively easy to tame and less dangerous than tigers, was frequently used by Indian nobility for sport-hunting.
  • The earliest available record for cheetahs being used for hunts in India, comes from the 12th century Sanskrit text Manasollasa, which was produced by the Kalyani Chalukya ruler, Someshvara III (reigned from 1127-1138 CE).
  • Cheetah coursing or the use of trained cheetahs for hunting had become a highly specialized activity in the medieval period and was carried out on a large scale during the Mughal empire.
  • Emperor Akbar, who reigned from 1556 to 1605, was particularly fond of the activity and is recorded to have collected 9,000 cheetahs in total.
  • Emperor Jahangir (ruled from 1605-1627) took after his father and is said to have caught more than 400 antelopes by cheetah coursing in the pargana of Palam

Near extinction under the British Raj:

  • Under the British Raj, forests were extensively cleared, to develop settlements and to set up indigo, tea and coffee plantations.
  • This further resulted in the loss of habitat for big cats, contributing to their decline.
  • There is evidence to suggest that British officials considered the animal as “vermin” and also distributed monetary rewards for the killing of cheetahs from at least 1871 onwards.

International trade of cheetahs

  • The princely states of Bhavnagar and Kolhapur were the leading importers of cheetahs between 1918-1939.
  • Just before the start of World War I, Maharaja Bhavsinhji II, who ruled Bhavnagar state from 1896 to 1919, sent his Superintendent of Police to Kenya to buy a cheetah.
  • By the 1930s, the Bhavnagar state was said to own 32 imported cheetahs.
  • Cheetahs continued to be imported to independent India in small numbers, especially for exhibitions in zoos.
  • Between 1949-1989, around 7 zoos owned 25 cheetahs, all of which originally came from foreign countries. Almost all would have been most likely obtained from Africa.

Kuno Palpur wildlife sanctuary

  • Kuno is a national park in Madhya Pradesh, India.
  • Established in 1981 as a wildlife sanctuary in the Sheopur and Morena districts, it was also known as Kuno-Palpur and Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • In 2018, it was given the status of a national park.
  • It is part of the Khathiar-Gir dry deciduous forests ecoregion.
  • Kuno river flows through the Kuno National Park from south to north, draining the other rivulets and Tributaries into Chambal River in Morena at the MP-Rajasthan border.
  • If a cheetah is introduced, Kuno Palpur will become, the only wildlife sanctuary in the world to host all four major cat species-lion, tiger, cheetah, and leopard.


The other sites recommended for holding and conservation breeding of cheetah in India, in controlled wild conditions are:

  • Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary (1,197 sq. km, habitat 5,500 sq. km), Madhya Pradesh
  • Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary – Bhainsrorgarh Wildlife Sanctuary complex (~2500 sq. km), Madhya Pradesh
  • Shahgarh bulge in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan (4,220 sq. km)
  • Mukundara Tiger Reserve as fenced enclosure (~80 sq. km), Rajasthan

Earlier Efforts of reintroduction:

  • If the re-introduction of cheetahs into the wild is successful, it would mark the culmination of a decades-long process.
  • The State Wildlife Board of Andhra Pradesh was the first to suggest the policy in 1955, on an experimental basis in two districts of the state.
  • In the 1970s, the Department of Environment formally requested Iran, which had 300 Asiatic cheetahs at the time, for some cheetahs. The Shah of Iran was deposed before any deal could be reached.

Supreme Court’s stay:

  • In May 2012, the court had stalled the plan to initiate the foreign cheetahs into the Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh fearing they would come into conflict with the parallel and a much-delayed project to reintroduce lions into the same sanctuary.
  • The court had expressed concerns on whether the African cheetahs would find the sanctuary a favourable climate.
  • A long-standing project, reviving the cheetah—the only wild cat to go extinct in independent India— got a new life after the Supreme Court in January 2020 lifted its seven-year stay on a proposal to introduce African cheetahs from Namibia into the Indian habitat on an experimental basis.

Why would the introduction of the African cheetah not pose a threat to the Indian ecology?

  • There are two sub-species of cheetahs recognized today, the Asiatic (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) and the African (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus).
  • It is argued that it is still debatable if there is a biological basis for their differentiation, as cheetahs across continents have been seen to be genetically comparable.

Cheetah Conservation Fund

  • Conservation Fund (CCF) is the global leader in the research and conservation of cheetahs and is dedicated to saving the cheetah in the wild.
  • CCF is an international non-profit organization headquartered in Namibia, with a base in Somalia and operations in the United States, Canada, Australia, Italy, Belgium, and the United Kingdom.
  • It was Founded in 1990, making it the longest-running and most successful cheetah conservation organization.

Trial period

  • The first year of the cheetahs’ arrival will be a trial period.
  • The Kuno sanctuary was intended to be a second home for India’s expanding lion population but, due to the Gujarat government’s abiding refusal, is unlikely to happen.
  • Preparations for the cheetah’s arrival involve establishing a ‘prey base’ that can sustain the population and that has already been prepared at the sanctuary.

How will cheetahs be chosen for India?

  • In choosing the cheetahs for India, the animals’ lineage and genetic history will be examined to ensure that they are not from an excessively inbred stock and are in the ideal age group so that they make up a suitable founding population.

Do you know?

  • Cheetahs have vanished from approximately 90 percent of their historic range in Africa, and are extinct in Asia except for a single, isolated population of perhaps 50 individuals in central Iran.
  • There are estimated to be only 7,100 cheetahs left in the wild.

India’s rationale for bringing back the cheetah:

  • Fulfilling biological objectives:
    • It aims to achieve both the biological objectives which are, to re-establish the ecosystem function role of the cheetah in representative areas of its former range and contribute to the global effort towards the conservation of the cheetah as a species.
    • The re-introduction plan of an apex predator at the top of a food chain may also help improve its habitats or even an ecosystem.
  • Livelihood and revenue:
    • The project will boost and enhance the livelihood options and living conditions of the local communities in and around the landscapes where the cheetah is likely to be introduced through increased revenues from ecotourism and associated activities.
  • Ray of hope for other species:
    • The successful relocation of the Cheetah, may become a ray of hope to other species, which are on the verge of extinction.


  • With the reintroduction of the cheetah the dryland ecosystems in India may have a chance to return to their natural state.
  • It is also expected that the reintroduction would enhance tourism prospects at the sites, the cascading effects of which would benefit the local communities.
  • The cheetah is part of our heritage and today India has the economic ability to consider restoring this lost natural heritage.
  • Therefore, Project Cheetah should be viewed not just as the reintroduction of a species but as an endeavour to better manage and restore some of the country’s most valuable yet most neglected ecosystems.

Source: The Hindu, Indian Express

Mains Question:

Q. Why did Cheetah go extinct in India and what is the rationale for cheetah reintroduction in India?