National Parks and World Heritage Sites

Cheetahs start flying back to India but will Tigers Return to Africa?

Cheetahs are slowly but surely returning to the India shores, as researchers are still trying to figure out why Tigers don’t roam African Wilderness.

Well at least, there are twelve South African cheetahs that made a historical voyage to India in February 2023.

It happens to be part of an intergovernmental agreement to reintroduce the big cats to India, where the cats went extinct 61 years ago.

They will join eight cheetahs from neighboring Namibia that were previously released into the Kuno National Park in central India last year.

The other 12 cheetahs have already also been received in the Asian Country, according to the country’s Union Cabinet Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav

The big cats were captured from South African reserves, sedated and loaded into crates.

Later the cheetahs were transported on pick-up trucks to the Oliver R Tambo International Airport, in Johannesburg.

From the terminal, they were airlifted by an Indian military plane, the Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster aircraft and flown to Asia.

The cheetahs, 7 males and 5 females, are the first of dozens that South Africa has promised India over the next decade.

But some residents In India seem skeptical, pointing out that many other wildlife species in the country are being killed in large numbers.

In recent times some 26 Tigers died either from being hunted or due to road kill cases.

Also falling victims are Elephants, Leopards and small land animals like mongoose. It is thus being feared that the imported cheetahs may not last long either.

A subspecies similar but separate to the African cheetah – the fastest land animal on Earth – became extinct on the Indian subcontinent in 1952 due to loss of habitat and overhunting.

It is possible to see a Tiger roaming the Serengeti in near future?

On the other hand scientists are still trying to find out why Tigers, though similar to Leopards, Cheetahs and Lions, cannot be found in Africa.

Zoologists point out that Lions, leopards and tigers are all part of the Felidae family of cats, which originated in Africa and share a common ancestor.

But some 2 million years ago, one offshoot of Felidae migrated east toward Asia, evolving into the orange, black, and white-striped beasts known as Tigers today.

Having settled in Asia, however, tigers never returned to Africa, although scientists aren’t exactly sure why.

According to University of Minnesota conservation biology researcher Shu-Jin Luo, tigers did not disperse westward to India until 16,000 years ago.