The Madhya Pradesh government has completed preparations for the cheetah reintroduction project at Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary.

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  • This wildlife sanctuary is going to be the second home for cheetahs in India after Kuno National Park.
  • Teams from Kenya and South Africa had earlier visited Gandhi Sagar to assess the conditions in the wildlife sanctuary.
  • Prey animals have been relocated from Kanha, Satpura and Sanjay tiger reserves to the Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary in order to maintain a healthy prey base.

About Cheetah

  • It is a large cat and the fastest mammal on land.
  • It has two subspecies:
    Asiatic cheetah is a critically endangered as per IUCN and currently found only in in Iran.
    African Cheetah with several subspecies occurring in different African countries, is listed as a vulnerable (VU) species on the IUCN Red List.
  • India was once home to the Asiatic cheetah but it was declared extinct there in 1952.

About Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary

  • It is located on the western border of the Malwa plateaus along the banks of the mighty Chambal River. It spreads into two districts Mandsaur and Neemuch of Madya Pradesh.
  • It was declared a Wildlife sanctuary by the Madhya Pradesh government in 1974 with a total 224.65 sq. km. area. Later, in 1983 another area of 143.970 sq. km. was also included in the sanctuary.
  • Currently, it is spread across 368 square kilometres and has an additional 2,500 sq km area surrounding it.
  • Terrain: Most of the area is of plain nature but here and there some hillocks are found.
  • Temperature – Mean annual maximum and minimum temperature lies between 420 C and 100 C respectively June month is the hottest month of the year. 

The Story of Cheetah Reintroduction at Kuno National Park

  • In September 2022, eight Namibian cheetahs – five females and three males – were released into enclosures at Kuno National Park.
  • In February 2023, 12 more cheetahs were brought from South Africa.
  • Currently, only 13 of the 20 adult cheetahs survive. Another 13 cubs born to these cheetahs put the total population of the animals in Kuno presently at 26.
  • The death of 7 cheetahs till now has drawn sharp criticism from wildlife experts. 
  • According to officials, a major challenge in managing cheetahs in India was the unexpected development of winter coats by some animals during the Indian summer and monsoon, anticipating the African winter (June to September). 
  • The development of winter coats, combined with high humidity and temperatures, caused the cheetahs to itch and scratch their necks, resulting in bruises and exposed skin. This led to maggot infestations, bacterial infections, and septicemia, ultimately resulting in the deaths of three cheetahs. 
  • Learning from this experience, India now plans to import cheetahs that do not develop thicker winter coats. 
  • Also, for the cheetahs already in Kuno, the forest officials plan to administer prophylactic medicine before the arrival of monsoon to prevent infection. 

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