Cheetah Reintroduction in India

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    In News

    • The Prime Minister of India will soon launch the first global intercontinental carnivore translocation of African cheetahs from Namibia to Kuno-Palpur National Park in India.

    More about the news

    • Eight animals sourced from Namibia and currently quarantined in South Africa for medical evaluation are expected to arrive in India.
    • The translocation of cheetahs has missed multiple unofficial deadlines due to factors ranging from the animal’s enclosures not being fully readied, to diplomatic formalities involving South Africa and India not being completed.

    Reintroduction Action Plan

    • ‘Reintroduction’ 
      • ‘Reintroduction’ of a species means releasing it in an area where it is capable of surviving.
    • About:
      • Under the plan, 50 Cheetahs will be introduced in the different National Parks in the country in a span of 5 years.
        • Initially, translocating around 8-12 cheetahs from South Africa, Namibia and Botswana will be done.
        • This is the first time in the world that a large carnivore will be relocated from one continent to another.
    • Ministry:
      • The Ministry is coordinating with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) as well as the Wildlife Institute of India(WII), which has been spearheading the project on behalf of the Indian government.

    How Cheetahs got extinct in India?

    • The Cheetah is believed to have disappeared from the Indian landscape when the Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo of Koriya is believed to have hunted and shot the last three recorded Asiatic cheetahs in India in 1947. 
    • In 1952, the Indian Government declared the Cheetah extinct in the country.
    • The only large carnivore till date to have gone extinct in the country, due to a combination of hunting and loss of habitat.

    Significance of Cheetah reintroduction

    • India as historical Cheetah habitat:
      • The cheetah is the only large carnivore that has been extirpated, mainly by over-hunting in India in historical times. 
      • India now has the economic ability to consider restoring its lost natural heritage for ethical as well as ecological reasons.
      • The Cheetah habitat in India historically is from Jammu to Tamil Nadu, very widespread and they were found in any habitat dry forests, grasslands, scrub forest, etc.
    • Pray base:
      • Experts believe that as long as there is enough food and there is protection they will regenerate on their own.
      • A‘prey base’ that can sustain the population and that has already been prepared at the Kuno-Palpur sanctuary.
    • Conservation:
      • To conserve threatened species and restore ecosystem functions.
      • Reintroductions of large carnivores have increasingly been recognised as a strategy to conserve threatened species and restore ecosystem functions.

    Challenges:

    • Coexistence with tigers and leopards: 
      • There may be intra-guild competition between the big cats in Kuno. 
      • More aggressive predators such as tigers and leopards will compete with the cheetahs. 
      • They may be driven to the outskirts of the park, where they could come into conflict with humans.
    • Locational Challenges of Kuno-Palpur National Park:
      • Different vegetation type:
        • The protected area of Kuno-Palpur National Park is largely dry, deciduous forest. 
        • The initial criticism was if the African cheetahs who are more used to the savannahs of that continent adapt well to Kuno.
      • Specific prey base:  
        • Indian cheetahs were largely dependent on blackbucks and chinkaras, sometimes on chital and rarely on nilgai. 
        • Few of these species are believed to have disappeared from Kuno.
      • Asiatic lion project: 
        • Some 24 villages have been relocated and rehabilitated from Kuno for this project. 
        • But now, Cheetah reintroduction may delay this project.

    Government’s efforts to overcome these challenges:

    • Increasing prey base:
      • To increase prey base inside the 500-hectare enclosure, the Kuno National Park has brought in 238 chitals or spotted deer (Axis axis) from Pench and Narsinghgarh Wildlife Sanctuaries of the state and are planning to bring in around 300 more deer.
    • Gradual coexistence:
      • Over time, says the action plan by the Centre, cheetah and leopard populations will be able to coexist. 
    • Tracking:
      • The initial batch of cheetahs and their potential offspring will be radio-collared and tracked for at least 10 years.

    More about Cheetahs

    • About:
      • The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is a large cat native to Africa and central Iran
      • It is the fastest land animal, estimated to be capable of running at 80 to 128 km/h.
      • There are four recorded subspecies of Cheetahs.
    • Threats:
      • The cheetah is threatened by several factors such as habitat loss, conflict with humans, poaching and high susceptibility to diseases.
    • Asiatic Vs African Cheetahs:
      • Research found that Asiatic cheetahs split from the African cheetah between 32,000 and 67,000 years ago. 

     

    African Cheetah

    Asiatic Cheetah

    IUCN status: They are vulnerable under the IUCN Red List.

     

    Distribution: Around 6,500-7,000 African cheetahs present in the wild.

     

    Characteristics: They are bigger in size as compared to Asiatic Cheetah.

    IUCN status: The Asiatic cheetah is classified as a “critically endangered” species by the IUCN Red List.

     

    Status in India: The Asiatic Cheetah was declared extinct in India in 1952.

     

    Distribution: They are only 40-50 and found only in Iran.

     

    Characteristics: Smaller and paler than the African cheetah.

     

    Source: TH