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Survival Chances of Cheetah in India |

Survival Chances of Cheetah in India

Context:

  • Recently, the Wildlife officials of Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh informed about the birth of seven cheetah cubs.

  • About Cheetah (Acinonyx Jubatus):
  • It is the fastest terrestrial animal on earth, and native to Africa and central Iran.The Gestation Period: 93 days;Cub Mortality: Higher in Protected Areas (like National Parks and Wildlife Reserves); It  can be as high as 90%;Average Life Span (in the wild): 10 – 12 years.

    Adult male about 8 years (Adult mortality is one of the most significant limiting factors for the growth and survival of the wild cheetah population).

  • Survival Chances of Cheetah in India |Cheetah in India (Asiatic):
  • 1st plan to reintroduce the cheetah: First solid steps were taken in the 1970s, during negotiations with Iran.

    Iran’s cheetahs were Asiatic, like India’s extinct animals.

  • Survival Chances of Cheetah in India |
  • The plan was to exchange Asiatic lions for Asiatic cheetahs.In 2009: Another attempt to source Iranian Cheetahs in India was made without success.

    Iran did not permit cloning of its Cheetahs.

    In 2020: South African experts visited four potential sites: Kuno-Palpur, Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary, Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary and Madhav National Park.In 2022: The Government of India has decided to reintroduce cheetahs, under the ‘Action Plan for Introduction of Cheetah in India’.

    It aims to bring back the cheetah.As part of the project, 50 cheetahs will be introduced in various National Parks over five years, and it is being done under Project Cheetah, the world’s first inter-continental large wild carnivore translocation project.It aims to re-establish the functional role of the cheetah in representative ecosystems within its historical range.

    Kuno Palpur National Park– It was established in 1981 as a Wildlife Sanctuary.A. In 2018, it was given the status of a National Park. – Kuno Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary is underway to become India’s second home for the Asiatic lion. Why was it selected for Cheetah?– Amongst the 10 surveyed sites of the central Indian states, Kuno Palpur National Park has been rated the highest.A. It is because of its suitable habitat and adequate prey base.– Kuno is probably the only wildlife site in the country where there has been a complete relocation of villages from inside the park.– It offers the prospect of housing four big cats of India – tiger, lion, leopard and cheetah – and allowing them to coexist as in the past.

  • Role Played by Cheetah
  • Ecological: Cheetahs fulfil a unique ecological role within the carnivore hierarchy and their restoration is expected to enhance ecosystem health in India.

    It helps restore India’s open forests and grassland ecosystems, which have been suffering.

    Conservation: The Cheetah can benefit India’s broader conservation goals by improving general protection and ecotourism in areas that have been previously neglected.

    Resources invested in these highly exploited and neglected systems ensure better management and restore their ecosystem services for the country.

    A Flagship Species: The cheetah serves as a flagship to save its prey-base and other endangered species of the grassland and semi-arid ecosystems.

    India is home to the world’s largest free-roaming populations of livestock.

  • Threats to Cheetah:
  • Coexistence with Tigers and Leopards: Threats like conflict with leopards, poaching and deaths caused while capturing cheetahs to retrieve them from outside park boundaries loom over the reintroduced species in the new habitat.

    More aggressive predators such as tigers and leopards will compete with the cheetahs.They may be driven to the outskirts of the park, where they could come into conflict with humans.

    Anthropogenic Threats: These include snaring for bush meat and retaliatory killings due to livestock depredation.

  • Survival Chances of Cheetah in India |
  • Captive Breeding: There is a concern among experts that weak genetics accumulated may persist among the captive cheetahs and eventually weaken the gene pool, resulting in animals that need constant human intervention for survival.

    Cheetahs are known for open forests and grassland ecosystems.

    Locational Challenges of Kuno-Palpur National Park:

    The protected area of Kuno-Palpur National Park is largely dry, deciduous forest. The African cheetahs who are more used to the savannahs of that continent adapt well to Kuno.There is a hypothesis that via the wound the African cheetah may have been exposed to parasites that Indian big-cats are usually resistant too.

    Specific Prey Base:

    Indian cheetahs were largely dependent on blackbucks and chinkaras, sometimes on chital and rarely on nilgai. Few of these species are believed to have disappeared from Kuno.

  • Government’s Efforts:
  • Increasing Prey Base: To increase prey base inside the 500-hectare enclosure, the Kuno National Park has brought in 238 chitals or spotted deer (Axis axis) from Pench and Narsinghgarh Wildlife Sanctuaries of the state and are planning to bring in around 300 more deer.Gradual Co-existence: Over time, says the action plan by the Centre, cheetah and leopard populations will be able to coexist.Tracking: The initial batch of cheetahs and their potential offspring will be radio-collared and tracked for at least 10 years.

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