General Studies IIIEnvironment and Ecology

Reintroduction of Cheetah


Recently, the Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change has launched the ‘Action Plan for Introduction of Cheetah in India’ under which 50 of these big cats will be introduced in the next five years.

About Cheetah:

  • The cheetah is a large cat native to Africa and central Iran.
  • It is the fastest land animal, estimated to be capable of running at 80 to 128 km/h (50 to 80 mph) with the fastest reliably recorded speeds being 93 and 98 km/h (58 and 61 mph), and
  • Such has several adaptations for speed, including a light build, long thin legs and a long tail
  • The coat is typically tawny to creamy white or pale buff and is mostly covered with evenly spaced, solid black spots. Four subspecies are recognised.
  • The cheetah lives in three main social groups, females and their cubs, male “coalitions” and solitary males. While females lead a nomadic life searching for prey in large home ranges, males are more sedentary and may instead establish much smaller territories in areas with plentiful prey and access to females.
  • It feeds on small- to medium-sized prey, mostly weighing under 40 kg (88 lb), and prefers medium-sized ungulates such as impala, springbok and Thomson’s gazelles.
  • 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.
  • The cheetah is threatened by several factors such as habitat loss, conflict with humans, poaching and high susceptibility to diseases.
  • Historically ranging throughout most of Sub-Saharan Africa and extending eastward into the Middle East and to central India, the cheetah is now distributed mainly in small, fragmented populations in central Iran and southern, eastern and northwestern Africa.
  • In 2016, the global cheetah population was estimated at around 7,100 individuals in the wild; it is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
  • In the past, cheetahs were tamed and trained for hunting ungulates. They have been widely depicted in art, literature, advertising, and animation.

About Reintroduction of Cheetah:

  • ‘Reintroduction’ of a species means releasing it in an area where it is capable of surviving.
    • Reintroductions of large carnivores have increasingly been recognised as a strategy to conserve threatened species and restore ecosystem functions.
      • The cheetah is the only large carnivore that has been eliminated, mainly by over-hunting in India in historical times.
    • The conservation of the cheetah will revive grasslands and their biomes and habitat, much like Project Tiger has done for forests and all the species that have seen their numbers go up.

Reasons for the Extinction:

  • Hunting, diminishing habitat and non-availability of enough prey – black buck, gazelle and hare – led to the extinction of the cat in India (1952).
    • The advent of climate change and growing human populations have only made these problems worse.

Reintroduction Action Plan:

  • With help from the Wildlife Institute of India and the Wildlife Trust of India, the ministry will be translocating around 8-12 cheetahs from South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.
    • These countries have the world’s largest populations of the animal.
    • The big cats will live at Kuno Palpur National Park (Madhya Pradesh) owing to its suitable habitat and adequate prey base.

Other Highlights of the NTCA Meeting:

  • Water Atlas:
    • A Water Atlas, mapping all the water bodies in the tiger-bearing areas of India has also been released.
    • The atlas contains information about presence of such bodies in several areas, including the Shivalik Hills and Gangetic plain landscape, Central Indian Landscape and Eastern GhatsWestern Ghats landscape, North Eastern Hills and Brahmaputra flood plains and Sundarbans.
    • The atlas has been put together using remote-sensing data and Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping.
    • It will provide baseline information to forest managers to shape their future conservation strategies.
    • Conservation Assured | Tiger Standards (CA|TS) Accreditation:
      • Fourteen tiger reserves have been accredited under CA|TS, and NTCA is working on getting other reserves evaluated for CA|TS accreditation.
        • CA|TS has been agreed upon as an accreditation tool by the global coalition of Tiger Range Countries (TRCs) and has been developed by tiger and protected area experts.

Source: Indian Express

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