28th January, 2023 Environment
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Context: India and South Africa have finally signed a long-pending agreement to translocate 12 cheetahs to India
- The cheetahs will be transported to India by February-end and reintroduced at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh, where eight such cats were brought from Namibia in September last year under a similar agreement.
- The initial batch of cheetahs from South Africa will be followed by transport of batches of 12 annually for the next “eight to 10 years”.
- The Memorandum of Understanding on Reintroduction of Cheetah to India facilitates cooperation between the parties to establish a viable and secure cheetah population in India; promotes conservation and ensures that expertise is shared and exchanged, and capacity built, to promote cheetah conservation.
- While the current carrying capacity for the Kuno National Park is a maximum of 21 cheetahs, once restored the larger landscape can hold about 36 cheetahs
- The carrying capacity could be further enhanced by expanding the area to other parts of the Kuno wildlife division.
- Kuno had earlier been identified for the translocation of Gujarat’s Gir lions, but the State government has refused to allow the Gir’s lions to be transferred out, despite a Supreme Court order rejecting its pleas.
- The project for the cheetah was put back on track in 2020 when the Supreme Court lifted a stay on the original proposal to introduce African cheetahs from Namibia into the Indian habitat on an experimental basis.
- In May 2012, the court had stalled the plan to initiate the foreign cheetahs into the Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh fearing they would come into conflict with the plan for bringing lions into the same sanctuary.
- The court had also expressed concerns about whether the African cheetahs would find the sanctuary a favourable climate.
- The government said special programmes were being conducted to educate local villagers in Kuno including outreaches to sarpanches, local leaders, teachers, social workers, religious figures and NGOs, with a local mascot named “Chintu Cheetah”to sensitise populations to the importance of the project and guidelines for the cheetah-human interface.
Need of re-introduction:
- Cheetah became the only large carnivore to have gone extinct in India in the 1950s due to hunting and loss of habitat.
- Action Plan for Introduction of Cheetah in India’, is an effort to bring the world’s fastest cat back to the country after 70 years.
Kuno national park:
- Located in: Madhya Pradesh, India.
- Also known as Kuno-Palpur and Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary.
Action Plan for Introduction of Cheetah in India’ details:
- A cohort will be imported from Namibia and each of them will be fitted with a satellite-GPS-very high frequency radio-collar.
- The animals’ lineage and condition shall be checked in the host country toensure that they are not from an excessively inbred stock and are in the ideal age group, so as to conform to the needs of a founding population.
- Ministry of environment and the Cheetah Task Force, will create a formal framework to collaborate with governments of Namibia and/or South Africa, through the ministry of external affairs.
- The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is a large cat native to Africa and central Iran.
- It is the fastest land animal, capable of running at 80 to 128 km/h.
- Habitat: The cheetah occurs in a variety of habitats such as savannahs in the Serengeti, arid mountain ranges in the Sahara and hilly desert terrain in Iran.
- Threats: Habitat loss, conflict with humans, poaching and high susceptibility to diseases.
- Protection status: It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
- Re-introduction: Cheetah was declared extinct from India in 1952 and is considered the only large mammal that has gone extinct since the country's independence. If the cheetah is reintroduced, India would become probably the only country in Asia to have all the major big cats in the wild(lions, tigers and leopards included).