Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Reintroduction of Cheetahs and Its Potential Impact


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Cheetah- characteristics and conservation status

Mains level: Reintroduction of species and Its Overall Impact


Central Idea

  • India has embarked on a conservation plan to reintroduce the cheetah into the country, with the aim of establishing a self-sustaining population at Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park. The initiative has translocated eight African cheetahs from Namibia and 12 from South Africa since September 2022. Can this initiative succeed in helping India’s grasslands?


Know about Cheetahs

  • Appearance: Cheetahs have a distinctive appearance, with a slender, muscular body, long legs, and a spotted coat. They have black tear marks on their faces that help to protect their eyes from the sun’s glare.
  • Speed: Cheetahs are the fastest land animals in the world, capable of reaching speeds of up to 70 miles per hour in short bursts.
  • Diet: Cheetahs are obligate carnivores and typically hunt during the day.
  • Conservation status: Cheetahs are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with an estimated population of less than 7,000 individuals in the wild. Their numbers have declined due to habitat loss, hunting, and other threats, and they are at risk of extinction in many parts of their range.
  • Reproduction: Cheetahs have a relatively low genetic diversity, which makes them more vulnerable to disease and other threats.

Cheetah reintroduction plan

  • The plan is to introduce roughly 20 cheetahs annually for the next 8-10 years, and the goal is to establish a population of 21 adults in Kuno National Park in 15 years.
  • The larger habitat of 3,000-5,000 sq km, which is larger than the 748 sq km where the cheetahs are based, could accommodate up to 40 cheetahs.

The impact of cheetahs on India’s grasslands: Illustration

  • Regulate herbivore populations: Cheetahs are predators that primarily hunt herbivores such as antelopes, gazelles, and other small to medium-sized ungulates. By preying on these herbivores, cheetahs can help regulate their populations, preventing them from overgrazing and causing damage to the grasslands.
  • Increase biodiversity: The presence of cheetahs in the grasslands is expected to increase biodiversity by creating a more balanced ecosystem. By regulating the populations of herbivores, cheetahs can prevent certain species from dominating the ecosystem, allowing other species to thrive.
  • Promote grassland health: Overgrazing by herbivores can damage the grasslands, leading to soil erosion and other ecological problems. By regulating herbivore populations, cheetahs can help maintain the health of the grasslands, ensuring that they continue to provide important ecosystem services.
  • Ecotourism: The presence of cheetahs in India’s grasslands could also boost ecotourism in the region, providing economic benefits to local communities.
  • Challenges: However, there are also potential challenges associated with the reintroduction of cheetahs to India’s grasslands, such as competition with other predators and potential conflicts with human activities.

The impact of cheetahs on India’s grasslands: Opinion

  • Reintroduction programme can improve India’s grasslands: Cheetahs indicate the overall wellness of open areas, meadows, and grasslands because they need these habitats to survive. The health of the cheetah population can, therefore, be an indicator of the health of the grasslands.
  • Opinion in contrast: Some expert disagrees and argues that restoring open natural ecosystems, including grasslands, should begin by addressing the problems that led to their degradation and decline. The arrival of the cheetahs will not save India’s grasslands, and there are already issues, such as large tracts of open natural ecosystems being categorised as wasteland and granted to renewable energy projects, including solar panels.

Example: Reintroduction of species contributing to the development of a larger ecosystem:

  • Project Tiger in India: The project started with nine reserves and now has 53 reserves making up 2.3% of the country’s geographical area. Scientists worked to establish source and sink dynamics and the concept of how exclusively investing in an umbrella can bring in a compelling, inclusive engagement with people and areas beyond.
  • Wolves in Yellowstone national park, US: The reintroduction of wolves and beavers in the Yellowstone ecosystem in the US as a global example based on solid science. The presence of wolves helped to control the population of elk, which had been overgrazing and damaging the park’s vegetation. As a result, the vegetation began to recover, which in turn led to increases in other species such as beavers, songbirds, and fish.

FYI: Impact of the Project Tiger

  • Project Tiger was launched by the Government of India in 1973, has made a significant impact on tiger conservation and the ecosystem in India.
  • Increase in tiger population: Project Tiger has been successful in increasing the tiger population in India. The latest tiger census conducted in 2018 estimated that there were around 2,967 tigers in India, an increase from the previous census in 2014 which estimated the population to be around 2,226.
  • Restoration of degraded ecosystems: The conservation efforts under Project Tiger have also helped to restore degraded ecosystems. For example, in the Sariska Tiger Reserve, efforts have been made to restore degraded grasslands and create water sources, which has resulted in the return of several species that were previously absent.
  • Expansion of tiger habitat: The project has also helped to expand the habitat available to tigers in India. The creation of new protected areas and improved management of existing ones has resulted in an increase in the area of tiger reserves from 9 to 51, covering an area of more than 71,000 square kilometers.
  • Protection of other species: The conservation efforts under Project Tiger have had a positive impact on other species in the ecosystem as well. The protection of tiger habitats has helped to conserve a wide range of flora and fauna, including elephants, leopards, and various bird species.
  • Reduction in human-wildlife conflict: The conservation efforts under Project Tiger have helped to reduce human-wildlife conflict by providing alternative livelihoods and increasing awareness about conservation among local communities. This has helped to reduce retaliatory killings of tigers and other wildlife
  • Challenges: Despite the success of Project Tiger, there are still several challenges that need to be addressed. Poaching, habitat loss, and human-tiger conflict remain significant threats to tiger populations in India.

Remarks: The success of the translocation exercise

  • According to the experts it took two and a half to three years for tigers to acclimate to Indian conditions in Sariska.
  • In cheetah project, they expect it to take longer since cheetahs are coursers that require large tracts of terrain.
  • While others believes that a clear picture of success will emerge when the animals not only survive but start reproducing, leading to a self-sustaining population.



  • The reintroduction of cheetahs to India can help establish a self-sustaining population and contribute to the global survival of the species. However, it remains to be seen if they can successfully acclimate to Indian conditions and if they will have a significant impact on India’s grasslands. Nevertheless, the initiative highlights the importance of conservation efforts and the need to address the root causes of environmental degradation.

Mains Question

Q. What is the significance of India’s cheetah reintroduction plan, and can it help improve the country’s grasslands? Illustrate

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