Cheetahs in India
- Historical Evidence: The earliest historical evidence of the animal Cheetahs in India is found in a Neolithic cave painting of a ‘slender spotted feline being hunted’, at Chaturbunj Nala in Mandasur, Madhya Pradesh.
- The word ‘cheetah’ is believed to have originated from Sanskrit word chitrak, meaning ‘the spotted one’.
- Cheetah Range: The population of Cheetahs in India was widespread and was found from Jaipur and Lucknow in the north to Mysore in the south, and from Kathiawar in the west to Deogarh in the east.
- Extinction: Cheetahs in India became extinct in 1947 when Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo of Koriya princely state killed the last three recorded Asiatic Cheetahs in India.
- The Indian government officially declared extinct of Cheetahs in India in 1952.
- Reasons for Extinction Cheetahs in India: Over-hunting was a major reason for the cheetah’s extinction, destruction of its relatively narrow prey base species and the loss of its grassland-forest habitat are other associated reasons.
- Previous Attempts at Reintroduction of Cheetahs in India:
- The attempts to bring Cheetahs io India began in 2009 but it was only in 2020 that the Supreme Court of India finally gave the green signal for such efforts.
- Even in the 70s, there were plans to bring back Asiatic Cheetahs from Iran. The plan did not go ahead due to political problems in both countries.
- Relocation of the Asiatic Cheetah is no longer possible as the cheetah population in Iran has dwindled to under 50.
Cheetahs in India: Cheetahs
- African cheetahs: They are native to Southern and Eastern Africa in regions spanning Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, and Kenya etc.
- Protection status: The IUCN status of African Cheetahs is Vulnerable.
- Asiatic Cheetah: Asiatic Cheetahs are critically endangered species surviving only in Iran. It was declared extinct in India in 1952.
Cheetahs in India: News
- Eight African cheetahs from Namibia (five females and three males) flew 8,000 km over to the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.
- The Cheetahs in India will be released as part of India’s Rs 90-crore Cheetah Introduction project.
- This is for the first time in the world that a large carnivore will be relocated from one continent to another.
- India was supposed to receive 20 African cheetahs (eight from Namibia and another 12 from South Africa) but assent from the South African government is still awaited.
Cheetahs in India: Reasons for Cheetah Reintroduction
- Global conservation: The translocation of the animal will restore India’s ‘historic evolutionary balance’.
- It will also develop a cheetah ‘metapopulation’ that will help in conservation of the animal.
- Ecosystem conservation: The conservation of the Cheetahs in India will revive grassland-forests and its biome and habitat.
- This will be similar to the role of Project Tiger in conservation of all species in forests. The project is also likely to help conserve water bodies.
- Future plans: In the next 15 years, the Indian government will acquire two to four cheetahs from Africa to establish a breeding cheetah metapopulation of 35-40 in the country.
- Once the population in Kuno National Park has stabilized, the Indian government will expand the efforts to reserves in other parts of the country as well.
Cheetahs in India: Kuno National Park
- Kuno National Park is located across Sheopur and Morena districts of Madhya Pradesh.
- The Kuno river, a tributary of Chambal, flows through the National Park.
- The National park is a part of the Khathiar-Gir dry deciduous forests ecoregion.
- The Saharia tribals are the original inhabitants of the region.
Cheetahs in India: Selection of Kuno for Relocation
- Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve, Shergarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhav National Park and Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary were the other sites that were shortlisted for relocation.
- Kuno was selected for the following reasons:
- Upgraded facilities: Kuno was upgraded with facilities such as reducing anthropogenic pressures through relocation of villages and mitigation of infrastructure (roadways and railway).
- The Park was already being prepared and monitored for Asiatic Lion.
- Prey augmentation: The Park has a healthy population of herbivores such as chital, sambar, nilgai, wild pig and chinkara.
- Climatic conditions: The rainfall levels, temperatures, altitude, and other conditions In Kuno are similar to conditions in both South Africa and Namibia.