Re-introducing cheetahs in India: What are its advantages and is this a first?
New Delhi, July 02: If everything goes well, Cheetah, the world's fastest cat will make a comeback in India, nearly seventy years after it went extinct in the country. This is probably be the first time in the world, when a big cat will be relocated from one continent to another for conservation.
African cheetah and Asiatic cheetah
After the Supreme Court's nod last year, the Indian government pledged to reintroduce cheetahs, the subspecies that once thrived in India. But it would be the African cheetah, not the Asian species, which is classified as a "critically endangered" species by the IUCN Red List.
The Indian government has made every effort to bring back Asiatic Cheetahs. At first, the authorities planned to either importing or cloning Asiatic cheetahs, from Iran. As the decades of negotiation with the country failed, they decided to sub in African Cheetahs for the country's long-lost population of Asiatic cheetahs.
When the cheetahs roamed the Indian sub-continent:
A few centuries ago, Cheetahs roamed the Indian sub-continent but could not outrun the long reach of humanity and soon went extinct.
Mughal emperor Akbar- loved Cheetahs, and he reportedly had an army of 1,000 cheetahs which accompanied him on his hunting expeditions.
Report's claim, the Maharaja of Surguja, the ruler of a princely state in Madhya Pradesh hunted down the cheetahs and that was the last known evidence of Asiatic cheetahs in India. Cheetahs were the only large mammal to become extinct since Independence.
Is this the first in India?
A re-location plan for an extinct mammal is happening for the first time in India. However, rhinoceros have been introduced within the country, with both positive and sad results.
A few years ago, rhinos from Kazhiranga park were moved to Manas National Park in the State. Some of the females even gave birth twice, adding to the total number of animals. However, in a setback, 10 rhinos were killed by the poachers.
Similarly, the government has also launched Tiger relocation project. A male from Kanha Tiger Reserve and a female from Bandhavgarh from Madhya Pradesh were relocated to Satkosia Tiger Reserve in Odisha. While the male tiger, Mahavir was found dead within months. The tigress Sundari became a predator, mauling many villagers and quashing and hopes of rebuilding a tiger population in the forests.
Cheetah re-introduction benefits
One good thing about Cheetahs is, they are highly adoptable. If introduced, Kuno Palpur, will become, the only wildlife sanctuary in the world to host all four major cat species-lion, tiger, cheetah and leopard.
The successful relocation of Cheetah, may become a ray of hope to other species, which are on the verge of extinction.
The re-introduction plan of an apex predator at the top of a food chain may also help improve its habitats or even an ecosystem.
The Cheetah reintroduction, may attract tourists, increasing the revenue for the state. This will also be an attempt to make people understand, the need to conserve wildlife and their habitats.
Cheetah re-introduction challenges
Due to climate change, wildlife species in India and the world are under dire straits, in this condition it is prudent to use funds to conserve threatened species rather than the re-introduction of species.
Several conservationists have opined that Cheetah re-introduction, is a case of misplaced priorities; instead government should focus on the ever-growing list of other endangered animals.