Conservationists question how India's imported cheetahs will adapt to new home

© Wildlife Conservation & Rural Development Society

As cheetahs transferred to central India from Africa made their first kill, officials hailed the hunt as a sign the animals were adapting to their new home – but some experts say India's hopes of reintroducing the big cats are unrealistic.

Almost 50 days after they were released in in central Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park (KNP), two cheetahs from Namibia made their first kill of a spotted deer early this week.

The two males, Freddy and Elton, were released from quarantine into a large enclosure stocked with natural prey, including spotted deer, nilgai antelope, four-horned antelope, wild boar and Indian gazelle.

“Cheetahs kill every two to three days, we were expecting them to make another kill soon. It indicates that the wild cats are willing to adapt to their new home,” a forest official told RFI.

“We believe the cheetahs would eventually hunt successfully as their natural instincts will now take over.”

Historic reintroduction

In September, eight adult cheetahs – three males and five females – brought in from Namibia were released in KNP as part of the world’s first intercontinental movement of big cats.

As part of a historic reintroduction of the world’s fastest animal, the cheetahs underwent a quarantine period before being released in the national park.

Asiatic cheetahs were native to India before they were declared extinct in 1952, largely due to habitat loss and hunting for their distinctive spotted pelts.

Compared to other big cats, cheetahs are smaller in size and have less reported conflict with humans.

Read more on RFI English

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