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The next month, preparations are underway for the trans-continental journey of 20 cheetahs. They are currently quarantined in two separate bomas, or small fenced camps, as part of India’s plan to reintroduce cheetahs to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh. These cheetahs have already received their first vaccines and will receive a second dose on Saturday. Additionally, they will undergo blood tests to check for diseases and be fitted with collars to get used to tracking devices in advance.

To address concerns about gene flow in such a small group of cheetahs, Veterinary wildlife professor Adrian Tordiffe from the University of Pretoria stated that similar projects in South Africa ensure gene flow. He emphasized the importance of healthy gene flow in small cheetah populations and highlighted South Africa’s successful cheetah metapopulation program.

The University of Pretoria, in partnership with the Wildlife Institute of India and India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority, represents the South African government in the project. Similar programs are also in place with Malawi and Mozambique.

The professor mentioned that despite the trans-continental distance, the travel to India was not likely to take much longer than travel within Africa. The cheetahs will be flown on planes to India and then transported by helicopters to Kuno National Park.

He also mentioned that the population size will not be limited to the first batch, as more cheetahs will be relocated to India annually over the next five to ten years. This translocation project aims to ensure zero mortality rate during the journey to India.

The project is equally beneficial to both Africa and India. The South African cheetah population has increased to 500 due to conservation efforts, but now there is a need for new reserves. The professor emphasized the importance of viewing cheetahs as a global population instead of fragmented small species.

The professor also discussed the potential introduction of Asiatic lions in the same parks as the cheetahs. However, a challenge that the reintroduction may face is the threat posed to cheetah cubs by the Kuno park’s large population of leopards.

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