The new Kuno National Park, in the central province of Madhya Pradesh, in India, has seen an incredible transformation in readiness for a Cheetah rewilding project. Not only is India’s National Board for Wildlife and Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change looking at re-establishing small populations of Cheetahs from Africa in four to six areas of India; they are also looking into the plight of the endangered native Caracal cat. The Caracal wildcat has been declared critically endangered, and research is being done concerning its populations in India, according to Dr. M.J. Ranjitsinh, former government Director Wildlife and the chair of the Wildlife Trust of India.
Training in Africa
After staff is trained how to best serve these new Cheetah populations, by experts in Africa, 35 to 40 cheetahs will come from Namibia and South Africa over the next several years. In addition to Kuno National Park, two other areas in central province, including the Nauradehi Wildlife, and Gandhi Sagar Sanctuaries, have been earmarked. Other potential sites include the Sergarh Wildlife Sanctuary and the Makundara Hills Tiger Reserve in the state of Rajasthan in Northwestern India.
Cheetahs have been extinct in India since hunting by royalty was popular in the 1950s. Although there was a subsequent effort to re-establish them by importing Persian Cheetahs to India, the fall of the Shah of Iran, and a decrease in numbers, have made the Persian Cheetah one of the most endangered large cats in the world.
With the successful Panna Tiger Reserve located in Madhya Pradesh, India appears to be going from strength to strength, with big cats. However, originally India’s wildlife board developed Kuno National Park to help the Asiatic Lion as well. However, the ministry found that the Asiatic lion project was dragging its feet in 2016, and stopped funding the work. Although there are thought to be only 700 Asiatic Lions left in the Gir Forest of Gujarat, western India; Cheetahs, who became extinct in India in the 1950s, were decided to be a higher priority.
Cheetah physiology and behavior
Cheetahs have very long tails, measuring from approximately 25 to 30 inches (60-80 cm), and use them as rudders during chases. They are about 25 to 35 inches (70-95 cm) at the shoulder, and are 3 to 5 feet (1-1.5 m) long. Adults can weigh between 20 and 75 kg (45-160 lbs), and cubs only weigh upwards of 150 g (5 oz) at birth. Cubs do not walk for the first two weeks, and have to be hidden in long grass, as larger predators like lions and leopards prey on young Cheetahs. Although some Cheetahs learn how to hunt successfully within six months, they do not become independent until they are about eighteen months old.
Cheetahs are carnivores are prey upon antelope, gazelle and deer like impala, springbok, duiker, dama, and Dorcas, and have also been known to eat smaller animals like goats, and hares.
Built for Speed
They are built for speed, and many liken Cheetahs to dogs like the greyhound. They are famous for their velocity–and Cheetahs are the fastest land animal on earth. But Cheetah speed records are in dispute. The average highest chase rate is thought to be between 30 and 40 mph (50-90 kph), but some think they can reach 60 mph (90 kph).
Cheetahs cannot roar like other big cats, but sometimes purr if they come across another Cheetahs that are familiar to them, or sometimes when playing with their cubs. For India, to move a species from one continent to another is considered a world first.
In World First, Key African Species Will be Relocated to Another Continent After it Became Extinct in India. Good News Network, LLC. (2021, March 24). https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/cheetah-reintroduction-program-in-india-gets-go-ahead/
Cheetah. Wikipedia. (2021, March 26). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheetah
African cheetah to be re-introduced in India after it was declared extinct 68 years ago. Firstpost. (2020, December 8). https://www.firstpost.com/tech/science/african-cheetah-to-be-re-introduced-in-india-after-it-was-declared-extinct-68-years-ago-9090871.html
Not So Fast: Why India’s Plan to Reintroduce Cheetahs May Run Into Problems. The Greenstories. (2021, March 27). https://greenstories.co.in/cheetahs/
Explained: The caracal, a favourite of royals, now critically endangered. Indian Express. (2021, March 4) https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-the-caracal-a-favourite-of-royals-now-critically-endangered-7206724/