Project Cheetah

Project Cheetah

Project Cheetah

About:

  • Project Cheetah is the¬†world‚Äôs first intercontinental large wild carnivore translocation project.¬†The project aimed at the reintroduction of Cheetahs in the country which had become extinct in 1950s in the country.
  • The project involves the translocation of cheetahs from South Africa and Namibia to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.
  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority is implementing and overseeing this project.

Reintroduction Process:

  • 20 radio-collared cheetahs¬†were translocated from¬†South Africa (12 cheetahs) and Namibia (8 cheetahs) to Kuno National Park.
  • In March 2023, India announced the¬†birth of 4 cubs¬†to one of the eight cheetahs that were relocated from Namibia.
  • The cheetahs underwent a¬†quarantine period¬†and were then shifted to larger acclimatization enclosures.
  • Currently, there are¬†11 cheetahs in free-ranging condition and 5 animals, including a cub,¬†in quarantine enclosures.
  • Dedicated monitoring teams ensure round-the-clock monitoring of the free-ranging cheetahs.

What is the Significance of Project Cheetah?

Environmental Significance

  • Biodiversity Restoration– The reintroduction of cheetahs helps restore the natural balance of the ecosystem by¬†reintroduction of a top predator¬†in the food chain. Cheetahs will help in the¬†restoration¬†of open forestland grassland ecosystems¬†in India and enhance ecosystem services like water security, carbon sequestration, and soil moisture conservation.
  • Conservation Efforts of Other Species– The success of Project Cheetah can serve as a¬†model for the reintroduction of other critically endangered species¬†which can motivate conservationists and governments to pursue similar efforts for other endangered species like the¬†Great Indian Bustard.
  • Ecological Research Opportunities-¬†The reintroduction of cheetahs provides a unique opportunity for scientists to¬†study cheetah behavior and ecology¬†in a new environment.

Economic Significance

Enhancement of Tourism- The presence of cheetahs in Indian national parks boosts wildlife tourism and generates revenue. This has led to job creation like Cheetah Mitras and has benefited communities living around national parks and wildlife reserves by increasing their sources of income.

Social Significance

  • Social Awareness about Conservation-¬†Debates on the success of Project Cheetah have¬†raised public awareness¬†about wildlife conservation and the importance of protecting endangered species.
  • Socio-Cultural Significance-¬†The reintroduction of cheetahs has also helped in¬†reviving their cultural importance¬†in India, as Cheetahs have historically been symbols of strength and agility in Indian mythology and folklore.

Criticisms against this Project

  • Scientific Basis –¬†Wildlife specialists said that India‚Äôs cheetah reintroduction strategy was based on an unfounded assumption.
  • They also claimed that the plan disregards critical scientific results from recent demographic research on free-roaming cheetahs.
  • Choice of Site –¬†Several wildlife and conservation experts contend that Kuno National Park may not be a suitable habitat for accommodating a large population of cheetahs.
  • Spatial Requirements –¬†Cheetahs typically require expansive habitats spanning thousands of square miles to roam freely but the area of Kuno NP is expected to be below 500 square miles.
  • Habitat Requirements –¬†Kuno is inadequate to accommodate such a large number of cheetahs.
  • The Supreme Court bench expressed concern over the high density of cheetahs in a particular location.
  • Alternatives – It further suggested exploring alternative habitats that may be more suitable than Kuno.
  • There are plans to develop a second reserve in Gandhisagar, Madhya Pradesh, and also establish a cheetah rehabilitation center.
  • Approach – The preservation of carnivores in environments that are heavily influenced by human activity needs a multidisciplinary approach.
  • Prolonged Captivity –¬†Quarantining cheetahs for extended periods has affected their adaptive capabilities and given them psychological adjustment problems, making them more vulnerable.

Related Links:

Project TigerNational Tiger Conservation Authority
Wildlife Protection Act 1972National Clean Air Programme
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