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Cheetah in India
Despite enormous and ever-increasing demographic pressures, India has lost only one big wild animal species since independence in 1947. And, excluding the Javan and Sumatran rhinoceroses, which existed only in the country’s easternmost reaches, India has never lost a major animal species, except the Cheetah. As a result, Cheetah has a unique significance for the national conservation ethic and ethos. The name “Cheetah” is derived from Sanskrit and means “the spotted one.”
India has successfully protected some vital habitats for iconic flagship species such as the tiger, Asian elephant, gharial, and the great one-horned rhinoceros. The grassland and scrub-thorn forest habitats, on the other hand, have been diminishing since they are typically seen as a wasteland and a blank by India’s state forest agencies. Because practically all fertile grasslands have been transformed into croplands, the blackbuck, the Cheetah’s primary food in these areas, is also living in peril owing to a conflict with agricultural people.
The historical range of Cheetah in India
The historical range of Cheetah in India included the entire country, except for the high mountains, coasts, and the northeast region; it included the areas from west of Bengal in the east to west of Pakistan into Afghanistan and Iran in the west, and from Punjab in the north to northwestern Tamil Nadu in the south.
Extinction of Cheetah in India
The major causes of cheetah loss in India were large-scale capture of wild animals for bounty, sport hunting, substantial habitat modification, alongwith an associated loss in prey base. The last wild cheetahs were shot in 1948 in the Sal woods of Koriya District, Chhattisgarh State, with rare sightings from the central and Deccan areas till the mid-1970s.
African Cheetah: Vulnerable
Asian Cheetah: Critically Endangered
CITES status – Appendix-1 of the List
- 6,500-7,000 African cheetahs are present in the wild.
- 40-50 Asian Cheetah found only in Iran
Asiatic & African Cheetah
|African Cheetah||Asiatic Cheetah|
|Habitat||Around 6,500-7,000 African cheetahs present in the wild.||Less than 100 ,found only in Iran.|
|Physical Characteristics||Bigger in size as compared to Asiatic Cheetah.||Smaller and paler. Has more fur, a smaller head and a longer neck. Usually have red eyes and they have a more cat-like appearance.|
|IUCN status||Vulnerable||Critically Endangered|
Cheetah translocation project
- The initiative intends to transfer African cheetahs to India after the Indian cheetah was declared extinct in 1952.
- Cheetahs will be mostly imported from South Africa and Namibia.
- The cheetahs will be relocated to the Kuno-Palpur National Park in the Madhya Pradesh districts of Sheopur and Morena.
- This will be the first time a big carnivore will be relocated from one continent to another.
- India attempted to get Asiatic cheetahs from Iran but was turned down. According to a recent remark by an Iranian government official, the earth is home to just 12 Asiatic cheetahs.
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species classifies cheetahs as “vulnerable.”
Relocation Site for Cheetah in India
Because of its ideal habitat and substantial prey base, Kuno Palpur National Park in Madhya Pradesh was placed high on the priority list among the ten studied locations in five central Indian states for contemplating cheetah introduction. Furthermore, a significant amount of rehabilitation expenditure has already been undertaken at this location in preparation for the introduction of Asiatic lions. The current size of Kuno National Park is 748 km2. It has no human settlements and is part of the wider Sheopur-Shivpuri dry deciduous open forest ecosystem, which covers an area of 6,800 km2.
According to the 2010 surveys and evaluations, the other proposed places for cheetah reintroduction in India include Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary, Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary-Bainsrorgarh Wildlife Sanctuary complex, Shahgarh Bulge near Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, and Mukundara Tiger Reserve.
Kuno National Park
- Kuno National Park is spread over an area of 748.76 sq. km.
- It is located in the Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh.
- The Kuno River, one of the major tributaries of the Chambal River, flows through its entire length, bisecting the National Park division.
- Kuno Park is known for its leopards, jackals, and Chinkara.
- The Wildlife Institute of India and the Wildlife Trust of India have shortlisted Palpur-Kuno park as a habitat for cheetahs and Asiatic lions.
- The cheetah that once roamed in India’s northern plains became extinct in India in 1948.
- Plans to reintroduce cheetahs to Kuno National Park from South Africa are underway.
- The Kuno can carry populations of all four of India’s big cats, the tiger, the leopard, the Asiatic lion and cheetah, all four of which had coexisted within the same habitats before they were exhausted to overhunting and habitat destruction.
- The leopard and striped hyena are the only larger carnivores within the Kuno National Park, with the single lone tiger T-38 returning to Ranthambore earlier in year (2021).
In conclusion, the cheetah is an important part of the ecosystem and its reintroduction in India would be a great success. There are many challenges that need to be overcome before this can happen, but with the help of local communities and government officials, it is possible to bring this magnificent animal back to its homeland.