Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Cheetah to be reintroduced into India

Dr. Laurie Marker, CEO of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, comments on historic cheetah re-introduction initiative in India
September 2011. In 2009, the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) was invited to participate in a programme by the Indian government to reintroduce cheetahs to that country after nearly 60 years of extinction. The plan, headed by Dr. M.K. Ranjitsinh, who served as India's first Director of Wildlife Preservation and is now Chairman of the Wild Trust of India (WTI), will reintroduce cheetahs in stages over the next decade, possibly starting in early 2012.

The Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary
In an advisory capacity, CCF has been working with the WTI and India's authorities to discuss the best strategies for this reintroduction and has conducted field inspections in order to determine the most viable release areas. The Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, a 344,686 square kilometre (133,084 square mile) reserve in central India, has been chosen for the first reintroduction. The sanctuary is home to many species, including wolves, leopards and nilgai --Asia's largest antelope.

CCF has made suggestions about necessary infrastructure changes as well as community involvement and education. CCF advises that local communities be counselled in living harmoniously with wildlife, particularly predators, through training and communications programmes. Sustainable tourism will be encouraged so that jobs and business opportunities for the local people can be created. Conservation biologists from India have attended several of CCF's international courses in Cheetah Conservation Biology, and in Integrated Livestock, Wildlife, and Predator Management. These courses focus on capacity building and mitigating conflict between people and wildlife countries, with a special emphasis on the cheetah. Dr. M.K. Ranjitsinh and colleagues have visited CCF in Namibia.

Reintroducing wild-caught cheetah
CCF developed a proven protocol for re-introducing wild-caught cheetahs that allows the animals to perfect their skills in a safe environment before being released. To date, CCF has successfully re-wilded cheetah in two regions in Namibia. Lessons learned from these successes will assist local Indian NGOs with the reintroduction. In addition, CCF will provide an experienced ranger to train local rangers and WTI researchers in cheetah monitoring and behaviour.

The reintroduction has been approved and budgeted by the Government of India. It will return cheetahs to the grasslands ecosystem where they used to thrive. Some parties have voiced their fear that the reintroduction of the cheetah will diminish efforts to save the tiger. There is also concern about the genetic history of Asiatic cheetah. As there are no living Indian cheetahs and, thus, no concern about mixing populations, the Indian programme plans to import cheetahs from Southern Africa. CCF respects the Indian Government's stance on these issues and is providing assistance when appropriate.

CCF is currently gathering information about animals for possible export to India, and pending all import permits necessary to abide by CITES regulations, cheetahs might be roaming in India once again as early as 2012.

1 comment:

  1. Several years ago, I was told that Howard Buffett, Warren's son, is using his money to conserve cheetah in Africa, and that he had been wanting to restore them to India.

    My knowledge of Indian cheetahs at the time came from a Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Speckled Band." The murderer keeps an Indian cheetah on the property, and he uses some sort of poisonous Indian snake as his murder weapon-- "the speckled band." When I looked into the Asian cheetah population, I was surprise that the only surviving population is in Iran.

    What always amazed me about Indian cheetahs is how many nobles, both Indian and British, kept them for coursing hounds. There are many paintings and photographs of the "hunting leopards," as they were called. I even came across a video of cheetahs being used to course blackbuck.


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