Cheetahs are coming back – this can boost the health of India’s shrinking grasslands

Cheetahs are coming back – this can boost the health of India’s shrinking grasslands
IndiainNambia Official Twitter handle
  • Cheetahs were once declared extinct in India seven decades ago, and now they’re coming back, thanks to Namibia.
  • Cheetahs are the fastest predator in the world, and experts suggest they can help boost biodiversity by hunting down herbivores.
  • India’s grasslands have declined 31% in the past decade, and the arrival of cheetahs could rejuvenate them.
India, the land of tigers, is ready to receive five African female and three male Cheetahs aboard a blue-orange tiger illustrated plane from Windhoek, capital of Namibia. They will reach the Kuno-Palpur National Park in Madhya Pradesh on September 17 after making an hour-long pit stop at Jaipur, Rajasthan.

Among these are two female Cheetah besties and one male sibling duo. All Cheetahs are under 5.5 years in age. The creatures will not be served food on the 11-hour plane ride as it can make them nauseous.

Faster than the fastest Yamaha bike

Called ‘the smallest of the big cats’, these magnificent creatures can outrun the fastest Yamaha bike. They went extinct in India in 1952 due to extensive hunting in the pre-independence era. The last Cheetah was seen in Sal forests of Chhattisgarh's Koriya district in 1948.

“The post-independence era still had remnants of rajas and maharajas from the princely states of India. Hunting was seen as a sign of aristocracy and even after the British left, the trend continued resulting in Cheetahs disappearing from India’s grasslands,” said Sunil Kumar Nandamudi, CEO at Amrit Nature Solutions, India-based company helping conserve biodiversity.


The fastest animal in the world is rapidly going extinct everywhere. There are only 8,000 of these wild cats left with less than 50 of the Asiatic Cheetah species.
Cheetahs are coming back – this can boost the health of India’s shrinking grasslands

Cheetah is a Sanskrit word

Cheetahs were always a part of India’s rich history. As per a book written by Divyabhanusinh, ‘The End of a Trail – The Cheetah in India’, Emperor Akbar alone owned 1,000 cheetahs.

In fact, the word Cheetah itself has an Indian origin, चीता (ćītā). This originates from the Sanskrit word – चित्रय (Chitra-ya), meaning ‘spotted’ or ‘painted’.

The cost of Project Cheetah

The Project Cheetah had originally tried to bring back Asian cheetahs from Iran. However, the country turned down India’s request. After many negotiations, Namibia, which has the largest population of Cheetahs in the world, agreed to India’s request.

The African Cheetah coming from Namibia may not be the same that went extinct from India, but they have the same genes, according to a report by PTI.

India's top public sector company Indian Oil Corporation or IOC has agreed to give ₹50 crore towards funding the ambitious trans-continental relocation of Cheetahs from Africa to India, PTI reported.

IOC has signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) for meeting two-thirds of the ₹75 crore project cost.

Under this project, a source population of 15-20 cheetahs will be flown in from Namibia and South Africa and will be introduced at Kuno National Park, Madhya Pradesh.

The project would help with cheetah habitat management and protection, ecology development, staff training and its veterinary healthcare.

Why are cheetahs being brought to India?

Cheetahs are at the top of the food chain and are natural predators. They control the health of biodiversity and the tropical landscape of a country by hunting down herbivores like antelopes. Excess of plant-eating herbivores leads to ‘overgrazing’, which shrinks the size of grasslands.

“Biodiversity and climate change are two sides of the same coin and Cheetahs are grassland creatures. Earlier, the entire Deccan plateau of India boasted of them but since grasslands are shrinking, it impacts the number of cheetahs,” said Sunil.

Cheetahs, experts hope, will boost the health of grasslands in India. According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) data, India has already lost 31% of grasslands within a decade.

SEE ALSO: Vedanta slips 9% after it clarifies semiconductor venture to be undertaken by Volcan Investments
Gautam Adani is $1 billion away from beating Jeff Bezos as the second richest person in the world
Tennis icon Roger Federer to retire from the sport next week — here’s a look at his journey so far