In September of this year, eight African cheetahs were brought to India, marking the first time in more than 70 years that the big cat has been seen in the country.

The return of the cats was celebrated by the Prime Minister on his 72nd birthday.

Modi said that the nature-loving consciousness of India has also awakened after releasing the cats into their temporary enclosure.

Some big-cat experts told Insider that they support the idea of re-introduction of wild, free-ranging cheetahs to India, but that the current effort seems more like a marketing stunt.

Saving cheetahs from extinction

The world's fastest land animal, the cheseler, used to be common in India. In 1952 they were declared extinct due to hunting and habitat loss.

The only large mammal that India has lost is the tiger. It is our duty to bring them back.

The total number of pheelers in the wild is estimated to be 6,500, according to the International Union for Conservancy of Nature. The big cats have a low percentage of their historical range. The majority of the remaining cheetahs are located in Africa, while a small amount of the critically-endangered Asiatic cheetahs are located in Iran.

We need to make permanent places for the cats on Earth. Laurie Marker told The Washington Post that India has areas of grassland and forest suitable for the species.

There are seven females and two males between the ages of two and six that have been moved. The animals were dropped off at Kuno National Park, south of New Delhi, where they are being monitored. Within a matter of months, the cheetahs will be released into the national park, where they will be able to prey on animals.

The goal of the plan is to establish a free-ranging population of cheetahs. Around 50 cheetahs will be relocated to the country in the next few years.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi watching a cheetah after it was released in an enclosure at Kuno National Park, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi watching a cheetah after it was released in an enclosure at Kuno National Park, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022.
Press Information Bureau via Associated Press

A 'larger version of a zoo'

A large predator has been absent from the environment for a long time. There may not be enough natural prey to sustain the planned population size as there could be conflict and competition for food with other predator.

There isn't enough space for the cheetahs as the plan currently stands, according to a wildlife and statistical ecologist.

The density of a cheetah population was found to be one per 100 sq km by a paper published in 2020. There is 750 sq km of space set aside for India's cats. The area would be large enough for only a few animals.

The founder and chief scientist of Carnassials Global, which provides science consulting to governments and NGOs, said that the action plan underestimated the number of cheetahs India's reserves could hold.

The current plan in India seems to rely almost completely on the cheetahs and their charisma, and he would like to see a fully science based approach.

The current plan won't lead to a restoration of a viable population of wild cheetahs, according to the Centre for Wildlife Studies, which is based in Bangalore.

—Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 17, 2022

The population would be increased by bringing in more animals in order to have more prey. He said that such a system can't be called reintroduced.

He called it a "gimmick and a huge waste of money" because it would be a captive population of cheetahs.

The vast majority of cheetahs die before they reach breeding age due to low reproduction rates. The survival of the cheetahs in India will be more difficult due to the denser populations of humans and animals.

The gullible Indian public, media, and political leadership have been deceived by the Indian bureaucracy and foreign experts.

Efforts to save the cheetah populations where they are already established but on the decline would be better spent.

Proponents of the project are still hopeful. The dean of the Wildlife Institute of India pointed to the success India has had in boosting other big cat populations.

Jhala said that the cheetah is a big magnet for ecotourism. The government will put funds into rehabilitation and rewilding if you bring in the animal.

According to Marker, the big cats can adapt despite potential challenges, as her group has spent 12 years consulting with the Indian government on how to control them.

Cheetahs are very Adaptable and I'm assuming that they will adapt well into this environment. I don't have much to worry about.

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