African Reserves

Cheetahs, which disappeared in India 70 years ago, will soon roam this forest MP

Twelve of the predatory cats, which once roamed much of Asia and Africa and are now extinct in India, will be flown to Madyha Pradesh state where they will be introduced to Kuno National Park, a said the University of Pretoria in a statement. Thursday.

In January 2020, the Supreme Court (SC) had authorized the Union government to bring the African cheetah to India with the aim of reintroducing the species to the country.

The IUCN Red List had listed the species as Critically Endangered globally.

The cheetah is the only large carnivore that has been completely wiped out from India, mainly due to overhunting and habitat loss. The last spotted cheetah in the country died in the Sal forests of Koriya district in Chhattisgarh in 1948 and the wild animal was declared extinct in the country in 1952.

The university participates in the program called Project Cheetah which aims to bring back the only large mammal that has become extinct in India, thereby restoring balance within the ecosystems it once inhabited.

The university says this will be the first such intercontinental species reintroduction.

According to the Ministry of Environment, the cheetah has a very special significance for national conservation ethics and ethics. Bringing the cheetah back to India would have equally important conservation ramifications. Cheetah restoration will be part of a prototype restoration of original cheetah habitats and biodiversity, helping to halt degradation and rapid biodiversity loss.

Professor Tordiffe and Professor Leith Meyer, Director of the Center for Wildlife Veterinary Studies at the University of Pretoria, said: “The cheetahs intended for reintroduction in India come from various small private reserves in South Africa. .”

“They are currently in large quarantine camps at two facilities in South Africa and are being prepared for relocation to the initial reintroduction site at Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh,” he added.

Outlining the way forward for the first 12 animals, Prof Tordiffe said that once their quarantine is complete and all logistics finalized, the cheetahs will be flown to India.

“My role is to ensure that we get the cheetahs safely from South Africa to India, and to ensure effective disease management, preventing these animals from becoming infected or transmitting disease to carnivores in India,” he said.

“This is just the first batch,” Professor Tordiffe said.

“We will probably send more, maybe a smaller number, but deployment will happen almost every year for the next five to 10 years until we help establish a stable population in India. The Cheetahs will not be permanently lost to South Africa. The Indian population will always be considered to be related to the South African population as there will be a continuous exchange of animals back and forth to ensure efficient gene flow. »

The project will also create new opportunities for collaborative wildlife research between India and South Africa. “We have a lot to learn from each other,” he added.

According to the estimate of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are less than 7,000 wild cheetahs in the world.

Recently, on July 20, the Government of India also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with India and the Republic of Namibia on Wildlife Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity for the Restoration of Cheetah in its Range history in India.

The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding took place between the Vice President of Namibia, Nangolo Mbumba and the Union Minister for Environment, Forestry and Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav.

The MoU facilitates the development of a mutually beneficial relationship to promote wildlife conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity based on the principles of mutual respect, sovereignty, equality and best interests. from India and Namibia.

The main focus areas of the MoU include biodiversity conservation with particular emphasis on the conservation and restoration of cheetahs in their former ranges from which they disappeared and the sharing and exchange of expertise and capacity to promote cheetah conservation in two countries.

Wildlife conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity through sharing good practices in technological applications, livelihood generation mechanisms for local communities living in wildlife habitats and sustainable management of biodiversity are among key aspects of the MoU, the ministry said.

Among large carnivores, conflicts with human interests are lowest for cheetahs, as they pose no threat to humans and do not generally attack large livestock. The return of a top predator restores the historic evolutionary balance, causing cascading effects at different levels of the ecosystem, leading to better management and restoration of wildlife habitat (grasslands, scrublands and open forest ecosystems) , conservation of cheetah prey and endangered sympatric species and a top-down effect of a top predator that enhances and maintains the diversity of lower trophic levels of ecosystems, according to the ministry statement.

(With agency contributions)

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