New Delhi: India’s well thought Project Cheetah is expected to bring back independent India’s only extinct large mammal–the cheetah.
“As part of the project, 50 cheetahs will be introduced in various National Parks over five years,” announced Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav.
Unveiling the action plan, he informed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen on protecting and conserving seven major big cats, including the Cheetah.
Cheetah is the only large carnivore that got completely wiped out from India, mainly because of over-hunting and habitat loss, a statement from the Ministry said.
India will source cheetahs from Southern Africa, providing India with substantial numbers of suitable cheetahs for several years.
Cheetahs from Southern Africa have the maximum observed genetic diversity among extant cheetah lineages, an important attribute for a founding population stock.
The Action Plan highlights the nation’s preparedness to bring the cheetah back. Conservation of Cheetahs has a “very special significance for the national conservation ethic and ethos,” it said.
The very name ‘Cheetah’ (Acinonyx Jubatus Venaticus) originates from Sanskrit, which means ‘the spotted one’.
The Ministry officials say Cheetahs are “not a threat to humans” and do not attack large livestock either.
“Besides conserving the big cat, the initiative in itself is a boon to the ecosystem. Cheetahs live in open plains; their habitat is predominantly where their preys live – grasslands, scrubs and open forest systems,
semi-arid environments and temperatures that tend to be hotter compared to cooler regimes,” they added.
In saving cheetahs, one would have to save not only its prey-base comprising certain threatened species but also other endangered species of the grasslands and open forest ecosystems, some of which are
on the brink of extinction.
It is also observed that among large carnivores, conflict with human interests is lowest for Cheetahs.
Amongst the ten surveyed sites of the central Indian states, Kuno Palpur National Park (KNP) in Madhya Pradesh has been rated the highest.
This is because of its suitable habitat and adequate prey base. KNP is 748 sq. km. in area, devoid of human settlements, and is estimated to have a capacity to sustain 21 cheetahs.
Kuno is probably the only wildlife site in the country where there has been a complete relocation of villages from inside the park. It also offers the prospect of housing four big cats, tiger, lion, leopard and cheetah–and allowing them to coexist as in the past.
The other sites recommended for holding and conservation breeding of cheetah in India in controlled wild conditions are Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary Madhya Pradesh, Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary–Bhainsrorgarh Wildlife Sanctuary complex Madhya Pradesh, Shahgarh bulge in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan and Mukundara Tiger Reserve as fenced
enclosure in Rajasthan.