Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Is Project Cheetah failing?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Project Cheetah

Mains level: Translocation of wildlife, Issues and challenges


Following the death of three cheetah cubs this week, the Centre has appointed a new steering committee, comprising national and international experts, to oversee the implementation of Project Cheetah.

What is Project Cheetah?

  • After being reported extinct in India for seven decades, the cheetah is set to make a comeback through ‘Project Cheetah’.
  • The Government of India reintroduced eight African cheetahs, consisting of five females and three males, at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.

Origin and Approval of Project Cheetah

  • Project Cheetah received approval from the Supreme Court of India in January 2020 as a pilot program to reintroduce the cheetah species to the country.
  • The initiative was first proposed in 2009 by Indian conservationists in collaboration with the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), a non-profit organization headquartered in Namibia.
  • The CCF is dedicated to the preservation and rehabilitation of cheetahs in their natural habitats.

Chronology of events

  • Medieval times: During the Mughal Period, they were extensively used for hunting, and Emperor Akbar owned a menagerie of 1,000 cheetahs. Various states in Central India, particularly Gwalior, had cheetahs for a long time.
  • 1947: The country’s last three surviving cheetahs were shot by Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh, the ruler of a small princely state in Chhattisgarh. India’s last spotted cheetah died in the Sal forests of Chhattisgarh’s Koriya district in 1948, leading to the animal’s official extinction in India in 1952.
  • 1970s: The first concrete efforts to reintroduce the cheetah began in the 1970s during talks with Iran’s Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi. The plan involved swapping India’s Asiatic lions for Iran’s Asiatic cheetahs.
  • 2009: Another attempt was made to acquire Iranian cheetahs, but it was unsuccessful as Iran did not permit the cloning or export of its cheetahs.
  • 2012: The reintroduction project was halted in 2012 when the Supreme Court ordered a stay on it.
  • 2020: In 2020, South African experts surveyed four potential reintroduction sites: Kuno-Palpur, Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary, Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary, and Madhav National Park.

Basis of recent translocation

  • Coexistence approach: India’s approach is unique as it aims to reintroduce the cheetah in an unfenced protected area using a coexistence approach.
  • Fenced protection: Fencing has been successful in other countries but limits population growth and range.
  • Perfect breeding area selection: Kuno NP’s core conservation area is largely free of human-made threats.

Various challenges

  • Retaliatory killing: Anthropogenic threats like snaring for bush meat and retaliatory killings pose risks to the cheetahs.
  • Fencing issues: Maintaining cheetahs and their prey base in an enclosure is considered impossible.
  • Habitation stress: Captivity and changes in habitat induce anxiety and stress, hindering reproduction.
  • Acclimatization issues: The climate, prey species, and overall conditions in Kuno forest may not stimulate mating and reproduction.
  • Prolonged captivity: Concerns are raised about the prolonged captivity of cheetahs before translocation, which may have increased stress and vulnerability.

Is the project a failure?

(1) Understanding adaptation challenges

  • The deaths among cheetahs must be considered in light of their natural lifespan and the difficulties they face in adapting to Indian conditions.
  • Daksha, a female cheetah, died from injuries sustained during a violent mating attempt by two males, which aligns with known predator behavior.

(2) Immediate assessment is an absurdity

  • The success of wildlife breeding programs is not an overnight phenomena. It is premature to judge at this juncture.
  • The increase in lion and tiger populations in Gir, Gujarat also took sustained efforts over decades.

(3) Complexities and Publicity of the Project

  • The cheetahs’ arrival in India followed extensive government planning, Supreme Court hearings, negotiations with multiple countries, logistical challenges, and the PM’s involvement.
  • The project received significant publicity. This necessarily doesn’t mean that the PM has a Midas touch.


  • The relocation program is considered an experiment, and every death and birth should not be seen as a definitive success or failure.
  • However, clear criteria and timelines must be established for project managers to determine if adjustments are necessary.


Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥Mentorship New Batch Launch
💥Mentorship New Batch Launch