Kuno National Park was founded in 1981 as a wildlife sanctuary, with an initial area of 133 square miles. Kuno National Park is located in the Madhya Paradesh districts of Sheopur and Morena. In 2018, it was declared a National Park, and the protected area was expanded to 159 square miles.
Kuno National Park has been chosen as a potential site for the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project. The project’s purpose was to provide a second habitat for Asiatic lions.
The Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary has also been suggested as a viable site for Cheetah Reintroduction in India.
Cheetah’s History In India
Asiatic Cheetahs were once present in significant numbers in Afghanistan, India, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Arabia. They were also found in Punjab, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Central India, the Deccan, and even Mysore.
The India Royals adored and hunted cheetahs at the same time. They were hunted for prizes, and some believed they were harmful to crops.
The encroachment of forest area for grazing also resulted in habitat loss. The cheetah population was reduced to 250 by the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Cheetahs were last seen in 1948, when the ruler of a princely state in central India shot and killed three of them.
Cheetah Reintroduction in India – Kuno National Park
The reintroduction of cheetahs in India is a one-of-a-kind project, since it is the first time a big predator is transported from one continent and released in another.
Five female and three male cheetahs aged 4 to 6 years arrived at Kuno National Park from Namibia on September 17, 2022, another 12 expected from South Africa later in the initial phase.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi released cheetahs transported from Namibia this morning in Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park. From Gwalior Air Force Station, Indian Air Force choppers transported the eight cheetahs imported from Namibia this morning to Kuno National Park.
The Cheetah’s are being introduced into India as part of Project Cheetah, the world’s first inter-continental big wild carnivore translocation project, according to a statement published by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on Thursday.
The Prime Minister stated that when cheetahs return to Kuno National Park, the grassland environment would be restored and biodiversity will rise. Tweeted PM in a series of tweets;
The cheetahs were transported in wooden crates and will be put into a specially built enclosure for a month before beginning a lifetime of acclimatisation to Indian prey and jungle conditions.
In a televised address, Mr. Modi stated that it may be “months” before regular residents can visit Kuno to see the animals. “They have now arrived as guests, and it will take some time for them to adjust to life in India,” he added.
The cheetahs have been radio-collared, and their movements will be monitored. Each animal has its own tracking crew. A team of wildlife experts, biologists, and Laurie Marker, a famous zoologist and creator of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, which has fought to restore the species in Africa, are also on board.
The cheetah is being introduced into India as part of Project Cheetah, which, according to the Environment Ministry, is the first time a big carnivorous animal has been transplanted across continents to create a new population.
“Decades ago, this age-old connection of biodiversity was broken and became extinct,” Mr. Modi said, adding, “Today, the cheetah has returned to the land of India.”
He noted that, despite the fact that cheetahs were declared extinct in India in 1952, no significant attempt had been undertaken to restore them during the previous seven decades.
The process of bringing cheetahs into India has spanned several decades, beginning with an innovative idea in 2005 by the CSIR — Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad — to clone an Asiatic cheetah. This was thwarted when Iran, where the species was still alive but declining, declined to exchange one animal.
Every year, 10-12 cheetahs are projected to be imported into India, with 35 thought to be required to develop a sustainable population.
The success of this group of animals will serve as a litmus test for India’s effort to house four wildcats – the tiger, lion, leopard, and cheetah.