The Indian cheetah was lost from India back in 1952. Hosting Tigers, Lions, Leopards, and Snow Leopards within its borders, it was a mark of pride when the cheetah reintroduction was announced. It is certainly true that cheetah once roamed India, and as the only cat to be lost in theory I would agree that it should be returned. However, there are many other issues, not least the fate of surviving Indian wild cat species: Indian lions came close to extinction, and Tiger population fell to about 1% of historical numbers – now up to about 4%, Indian snow leopards are also only thought to number around 4-500.
In other words, there is much concern that any significant amount of conservation money, which might otherwise be used to protect the remaining Indian Lions Tigers and Snow Leopards (as well as Leopards and other smaller cats) will be redirected to reintroduce the Cheetah, and therefore one of these other species will be lost in the process.
What is of bigger concern, while these are not the 3 to have died, only 3 of the 20 cheetah have been fully released into the wild
The cheetah have arrived in India, and have been introduced into enclosures within the Kuno national park. At the current time, the enclosures are just 15x30m so a similar size to a large zoo enclosure. They will stay in this enclosure for a month in order for the team to be sure that their health is good.
After this, they will be shifted into a 1 kilometre square enclosure for up to another 4 months before being released fully into the Kuno national park.
A further 12 cheetah will be transferred next month with roughly 50 agreed to be transferred over the next few years.
The simple question, though, is that cheetah do not do well in small reserves in Africa, as they cannot compete with large cats like lions or leopards (or in India, Tigers). With far less space, and a much greater density of people in India, is there going to be space for the returning cheetah? Furthermore, this situation is not likely to improve in the near future: predictions are that, without a significant break on fertility rates, India’s population could exceed 2 billion by the end of the century. In this senario, it is hard to see how there is space for much wildlife at all.
There is an impressive wealth of cats living in India. From the Indian tiger (known throughout the world) to the Asiatic lions last home- the gir forests of west india (the asiatic lion once roamed across Asia, throughout southern Europe, across northern and western Africa – therefore there are probably more “Asiatic” lion in Africa than in Asia), 12,000-14,000 leopards remain in the country. The snow leopard also still roams mountains within the country. It also still has a population of clouded leopards. In other words, in terms of big cats, it has all species except Jaguar.