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Ninth Cheetah Dies in Kuno National Park

In News: Recently at Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh, a female cheetah named Dhatri (Tbilisi) has sadly passed away. This unfortunate event...

In News: Recently at Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh, a female cheetah named Dhatri (Tbilisi) has sadly passed away. This unfortunate event marks the ninth fatality, comprising six adult cheetahs relocated from Namibia and South Africa, along with three cubs born in India.

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.
  • 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.

What are the Objectives of Project Cheetah?

  1. Re-establish a viable population of the Asiatic cheetah in India, which is currently considered critically endangered and on the brink of extinction.
  2. By reintroducing this species, the project seeks to restore the ecological balance, enhance biodiversity, and conserve the unique genetic heritage of the cheetah.
  3. Potential to revive India’s natural heritage and strengthen its commitment to wildlife conservation.
  4. Enhance India’s global standing as a responsible custodian of endangered species.
  5. The project could attract ecotourism, generating economic opportunities for local communities and promoting environmental awareness.

About Kuno National Park

Potential challenges to Project Cheetah:

  1. Non-availability of suitable Habitats for the cheetah’s re-introduction ie to match with the Savannah landscape of Africa.
  2. Lack of abundant areas with abundant prey, sufficient cover, and minimal human-wildlife conflicts.
  3. Non-availability of a safe environment, free from poaching and habitat destruction is essential for the cheetah’s long-term survival.
  4. Genetic diversity in the Asiatic cheetah population is severely fragmented, with a limited gene pool. Maintaining genetic diversity during the reintroduction process is vital to avoid inbreeding depression and preserve the species’ long-term viability.
  5. Poor adaptive management strategies, community participation and lack of effective monitoring to mitigate potential conflicts between humans and cheetahs.

What concerns raised about the cheetah deaths at Kuno National Park?

  • Two cheetahs recently died due to infections from wounds caused by radio collars on their necks.
  • Ministry claims all deaths are natural, but reintroduction experts express concerns.
  • Apprehensions about external factors like heavy rainfall, heat, humidity affecting cheetahs.
  • Experts suggest collars could have exacerbated cheetahs’ vulnerability in adverse conditions.

Cheetah Deaths Raise Concerns about Captivity and Collar Use

  • March 27: Namibian cheetah Sasha passed away due to kidney issues, likely acquired during captivity.
  • Sasha faced health problems since arriving at Kuno.
  • April 13: Another cheetah Uday fell sick and died.
  • May 9: Daksha, from South Africa, died after a clash with male cheetahs during mating.
  • Tragedy struck as three cubs from a Namibian cheetah died in the same month.
  • July 11 and 14: Male cheetahs Tajas and Suraj died due to organ failure.
  • Radio collars might have caused infections leading to their demise, as per experts.

Is the project a failure?

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.

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.

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.

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