New Delhi: India is exploring the possibility of importing cheetahs from North Africa, as some of the cheetahs brought from Namibia and South Africa have developed a thick winter coat in the Indian summer, officials said on Wednesday.
According to officials, the biggest challenge that has emerged in the first year of implementing the project to reintroduce cheetahs in India is that some cheetahs have grown fur on their skin to cope with the cold of Africa during the monsoon season (June to September), which is unsuitable for the heat of India.
A senior forest official said that this was unexpected even by African experts. The high temperature and humid weather in India aggravated the problem of fur growth for the cheetahs, as it caused them to suffer from itching, which they tried to relieve by rubbing their necks on the ground or tree trunks, the official said. He said that this resulted in wounds on their skin and flies laid eggs in their wounds, leading to bacterial infections and death of three cheetahs.
An official involved in the cheetah project, who requested anonymity, said, “Cheetahs living in Northern and North-Eastern Africa in the Northern Hemisphere are likely to adapt better to Indian conditions. This is being discussed but we have yet to assess the status of cheetahs in this part of Africa. We have to analyze their numbers, health status, reproductive cycle, etc.
The official said that many international experts, including from Britain and America, said that they have imported cheetahs from North Africa to their countries and have recommended India to do the same. S.P. Yadav, head of the cheetah project and additional director general (forest) in the environment ministry, said, “The idea of importing cheetahs from North Africa is being discussed but the next batch of cheetahs will come from South Africa.
He said that India plans to import cheetahs that do not develop dense fur on their skin and the reason behind this is infection due to fur in some cheetahs due to which three of them died. Cheetahs were historically found in North Africa but their numbers are rapidly declining in the region and in many North African countries, cheetahs are believed to be extinct or on the verge of extinction.
The project to reintroduce cheetahs in India is the world’s first inter-continental large wild carnivore translocation project. Under the project, eight spotted cats were brought from Namibia and South Africa under an MoU signed earlier this year. Out of the eight cheetahs, there were five female and three male cheetahs. Prime Minister Narendra Modi released them at two different points in Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh on Saturday. The release of wild cheetahs in Kuno National Park is part of a movement to revitalize and diversify India’s wildlife and habitat. The spotted cat will help to conserve biodiversity and enhance ecosystem services like water security, carbon sequestration, and soil moisture conservation, resulting in various benefits for human existence. According to mythology, cheetahs are an important part of Hindu culture. They symbolize grandeur, power, beauty, fierceness, and courage.