Cheetah Citizen
Photo Credit: Piet Bakker via Pexels

A cheetah project between India and South Africa will see the species reintroduced into India after it died out years ago. This partnership will help local species widen the gene pool.


Pretoria, South Africa (22 July 2022) – Twelve South African Cheetah are being prepared for a new life in India as part of the Cheetah Project. The project will reintroduce the species to the country in the hopes of rebuilding the population in India.

The Cheetah is the first large mammal to become extinct in India. The species once thrived in India but today, has disappeared.

With viable space being so limited for Cheetah, even here in South Africa, finding environments where the species can thrive and repopulate is essential. In the past, projects have seen Cheetah sent to live in Mozambique and Malawi in the hopes of diversifying the gene pool of the dwindling population numbers. However, there is a slight catch 22 situation here too. While numbers are limited, so is appropriate space for them, which is why it is essential to find new homes for wild cheetah.

The University of Pretoria has played a vital role in planning the reintroduction of Cheetah into India. There are currently only 7000 wild cheetah left in the world so every effort is being made to increase those numbers. In an interview with the Cape Times, Professor Adrian Tordiffe from the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Veterinary Science, shared insights into why the project is so important.

“There is growing concern about finding new export opportunities to ensure that the free-ranging cheetah population grows in a sustainable, manageable manner,” said veterinary wildlife specialist Professor Adrian Tordiffe, of UP’s Faculty of Veterinary Science.

“Very few new reserves can accommodate cheetahs in South Africa, and if no new space is found to accommodate the expanding population, animals will have to be placed on contraceptives to limit their numbers.”

He explains how tragic the thought is of limiting the already limited population through contraceptives. Focusing on relocation is a big step forward for the species. This relocations will be the first intercontinental species reintroduction of its kind. History will be made!

A total of 12 cheetah have been identified for this project. Both the South African and Indian governments have been involved in the negotiations of this project. But the key role-players include Professor Tordiffe as well as Professor Leith Meyer, the director of the Centre for Veterinary Wildlife Studies at the university. They have been integral in the planning which started in 2020. Together, they have been working with the Wildlife Institute of India and the Indian Tiger Conservation Authority. Vincent van der Merwe, manages the cheetah metapopulation in South Africa has aided in identifying the cheetah that will make this journey.

Professor Tordiffe believes that if bold moves are not made now, then we may not have a wild cheetah population in 50 years time either. Subspecies of cheetah are endangered throughout the world, many having populations so small, they are not able to be counted.

The species that once lived in India was different to those of our African roots however, the role they play in the ecosystem is the same. Which is what makes this move vital for India too. The environment will be much the same as it is here, only the cheetah won’t be fenced in. The Indian government believes in free movement of wild animals and where there is human-animal conflict, the animal is permitted to act and the government compensates the farmer for any stock loss.

“The cheetahs earmarked for the India reintroduction come from various small private reserves in South Africa,” 

“They are currently in large quarantine camps at two facilities in South Africa and are being prepared for relocation to the initial reintroduction site in Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.”

There are still a few hurdles to overcome before our 12 cheetah set off to India, but there is so much hope in this project that those hurdles will soon be overcome.

Sources: iol
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Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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