...By Jack Sylva for TDPel Media.
One of the 12 cheetahs relocated from South Africa to India has died, according to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), who confirmed the death on Thursday, 27 April.
In addition, another cheetah transported from Namibia has also died.
The animals were moved to India in February 2023 as part of an initiative to expand the cheetah meta-population and reintroduce the big cats to a former range state.
An autopsy is pending to determine the cause of death for the relocated cheetah, but the DFFE spokesperson, Peter Mbelengwa, stated that there is no indication that the death was caused by an infectious disease or that there is a similar threat to any of the other cheetahs.
Large carnivore reintroductions are extremely complex and inherently risky operations, and this is a critical phase of the project, with cheetahs being released into larger environments where there is increasingly less control over their day-to-day well-being.
The risks for injury and mortality will be increasing, and these risks are factored into the reintroduction plan, said Mbelengwa.
The remaining cheetahs will be released into “free-ranging” conditions in the coming months.
The environment will have competing predators, including leopards, wolves, bears, and striped hyenas.
Analysis: The news of the cheetah deaths is a setback for the project aimed at reintroducing the big cats to India.
The initiative is an attempt to boost the cheetah population globally and is a collaboration between South Africa and India.
The reintroduction of large carnivores is a complex process that requires careful planning and management.
As seen in the case of cheetahs being transported from South Africa to India, it involves high risks for injury and mortality, especially during the initial phase of release.
The cheetahs are being reintroduced to India after their extinction from the country in the 1950s.
The initiative is an attempt to restore the ecological balance of the region and also promote tourism.
However, the success of the project depends on factors such as the availability of prey, the absence of human-wildlife conflict, and the ability of the animals to adapt to the new environment.
The deaths of the cheetahs indicate that there are risks associated with the reintroduction of large carnivores.
However, the DFFE spokesperson has stated that the deaths are within expected mortality rates for a project of this nature.
It is crucial to monitor the remaining cheetahs closely to ensure their safety and well-being.
The initiative to reintroduce cheetahs to India highlights the importance of conservation efforts and the need to protect endangered species.
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