Cheetahs head back to India
Wildlifenews By Kevin Heath
India used to be home to the fastest animal on Earth – the cheetah. Sadly the last cheetah in India was shot dead about 64 years ago in Sarguja, Chhattisgarh. Now an ambitious plan will see cheetah transported from Namibia and re-introduced into the states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan
Over the course of the re-introductions 18 cheetahs will be released back into the wild at three locations. Two of the sites are in Madhya Predesh and the third site is in Rajasthan. While the plans were passed by the Indian government for the re-introduction in 2010 a lot of preliminary work had to be done at the sites to make them suitable for cheetahs.
Import of cheetahs to India about to be cleared.
Now the Environment and Forests Ministry is set to clear the import of cheetahs for the first site at Kuno Palpur wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Predesh. The Kuno Palpur is thought to be able to support up to 32 cheetahs. It is also the site that the government has chosen for the translocation of Asiatic lions from Gujurat. With the reintroduction of cheetahs and lions and the current populations of leopards and tigers the 345 square kilometre wildlife park will be home to all 4 of India's big cats.
Asiatic cheetahs used to roam widely now down to under 100 cats.
Cheetahs used to roam widely over much of Asia though now the Asiatic cheetah is critically endangered and less than 100 survive in the deserts of Iran. The cheetah was so common place that it is named from the Sanskrit words "chitra kayah", meaning speckled or spotted (chitra) and body (kayah).
The cheetahs to be released into Madhya Predesh will come from Namibia as it is thought to be too high risk to take individuals from the Iranian Asiatic population.
While the plans to re-introduce the cheetah are supported by many conservationists in India including the major wildlife organisations there are still some who are deeply concerned about the plans.
Arguments about re-introduction of cheetahs still ongoing.
Issues include whether there are enough prey for the cats and whether it is right to import an African cheetah into the Indian grasslands. There are also issues with the risks to inbreeding with the original Asiatic cheetah if the African cats succeed in breeding and expand their range in the region. Questions have also been raised as to whether the current wildlife laws in India are sufficient to protect the big cats in human-wildlife conflicts.
Supporters of the plan, including international cheetah experts, dismiss the fears and say that the wildlife parks picked out for the re-introduction plans can support viable populations of cheetah and their presence will help to conserve the threatened grassland habitats.
The government also believe that apart from the conservation and ecological benefits of the introductions there will also be a boost to the local economy through tourism. This boost should outweigh any losses that could occur to livestock.
With the forestry ministry about to clear the import of the cheetahs it's only going to be a few short months before the cheetah is once more roaming and hunting on the dry grasslands of India.
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- Cheetahs head back to India
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