India and South Africa signed an agreement on Project Cheetah in January 2023. According to the agreement, India will get 12 Cheetahs from South Africa. These cheetahs will be dropped at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh. In September 2022, eight Cheetahs were introduced in the park. These eight were brought from Namibia. Namibia gifted them to India. This was the first inter-continental transfer of Cheetahs in the world.
What is the plan?
Cheetahs became extinct in India in 1952. Project Cheetah, also called Action plan for the introduction of Cheetah in India was launched to reintroduce the big cats in the country. To achieve this, India signed an agreement with South Africa. Under this agreement, South Africa will send 12 Cheetahs every year for the next 8 to 10 years.
Stakeholders of the plan
The project is implemented by the Forestry department, South African organizations, National Biodiversity Institute, Endangered Wildlife trust, etc. The Indian Air Force flies the Cheetahs from South Africa.
Initially India had planned to introduce the African Cheetahs. However, this was against the IUCN rules of reintroduction. According to IUCN, introducing an exotic species will replace the native ones. So India moved on with Asiatic Cheetahs. Asiatic Cheetahs existed in India and became extinct. Therefore, Asiatic Cheetahs are not exotic species to the country.