South Africa signs deal with India to relocate dozens of cheetahs

South Africa has signed an agreement with India to reintroduce dozens of cheetahs to the South Asian country after eight of the big cats were sent from neighboring Namibia in 2022.

In a statement, South Africa’s environmental department said, “An initial batch of 12 cheetahs is scheduled to be flown from South Africa to India in February 2023.” 

“The plan is to translocate a further 12 annually for the next eight to 10 years,” the department added.

These 12 cheetahs will be kept at Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh, a place which is already home to eight African cheetahs relocated from Namibia. Eight cheetahs, five female and three male, were introduced on September 17 last year at the Kuno National Park in the Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh.

News agency PTI earlier reported that the South African minister of environment, forestry and fisheries, Barbara Creecy, had cleared India’s proposal to translocate cheetahs in November.

Final clearance of a formal agreement between both countries by the South African president was awaited by the authorities.

“Nine cheetahs have been quarantined at the Rooiberg Veterinary Services run by wildlife veterinarian Dr Andy Fraser in South Africa’s Limpopo province, while the other three were quarantined at Phinda game reserve in KwaZulu-Natal province,” an official told PTI in September last year.

According to another media report, a delegation will leave in February for South Africa to bring in 12 big cats to India, bringing the total number of cheetahs in India to 20.

Due to coursing, sport hunting, overhunting and habitat loss, cheetahs got utterly wiped out from the country. In 1952 the Indian government declared the cheetah extinct in the country.

Starting in the 1970s, the efforts of the Indian government to re-establish the species in its historical ranges in the country led to the signing of a pact with Namibia, which donated the first eight individuals to launch the Cheetah reintroduction programme on July 20 last year.