Re-introducing African Cheetahs to India:
The cheetah, which became extinct in India after Independence, is all set to return with the Union Government launching an action plan in Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh. According to the plan, about 50 of these big cats will be introduced in the next five years, from the Africa savannas, home to cheetahs, an endangered species.
|Historically, Asiatic cheetahs had a very wide distribution in India.
Most of the records are from a belt extending from Gujarat passing through Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha.
The cheetah’s habitat was also diverse, favouring the more open habitats: scrub forests, dry grasslands, savannahs and other arid and semi-arid open habitats.
Cheetah, the world’s fastest land animal was declared extinct in India in 1952.
The Asiatic cheetah is classified as a “critically endangered” species by the IUCN Red List, and is believed to survive only in Iran.
The major reasons for the extinction of the Asiatic cheetah in India:
- Reduced fecundity and high infant mortality in the wild
- Inability to breed in captivity
- Sport hunting and
- Bounty killings
- It is recorded that the last cheetahs were shot in India in 1947, but there are credible reports of sightings of the cat till about 1967.
What is the officially stated goal?
- To establish viable cheetah meta-population in India that allows the cheetah to perform its functional role as a top predator
- To provide space for the expansion of the cheetah within its historical range thereby contributing to its global conservation efforts.
Issues in re-introduction:
- Experts find it difficult whether the African cheetahs would find the sanctuary a favorable climate as far as the abundance of prey is concerned.
- The habitat of cheetahs needed to support a genetically viable population.
- The issue calls for an open and informed debate.
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