The once-thriving cheetahs in India are likely to flourish on Indian soil once again. Read on for more information on this happy news. By Presha Mahajan
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Over the years, there have been numerous reports of cheetahs making a comeback in India, but the plan has always fallen through amid concerns of inadequate habitats for the animal, and skepticism around the country’s competency in conserving endangered or at-risk species.
This time, however, if all goes according to plan, five male and three female cheetahs will travel more than 8,000 kilometers from South Africa to an Indian national park in November, confirms M K Ranjitsinh, head of National Tiger Conservation Authority to The Times of India.
Some experts question the move, owing to the lack of fenced reserves, which are imperative to protect cheetahs. Being delicate animals, their conflict with other cats—lions, leopards and tigers—in the sanctuary could prove to be dangerous in a new environment. The first good news, however, is that cheetahs are highly adaptable animals.
The second ray of hope comes with conservationists discovering promising potential habitats to house the animals, including one national park and two wildlife sanctuaries. The first batch of eight cats will be found in the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh—with its abundant population of antelopes and wild boars to act as food for the new carnivores, and an environment conducive to breeding and rearing. Mukundra Hills in Rajasthan is another propitious habitat available.
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Finally, according to Wildlife Institute of India dean, Yadvendradev Jhala, there are sufficient resources and appropriate habitats to reintroduce the cat. “This is the first time in the world when a large carnivore will be relocated from one continent to another for conservation,” he says to BBC.
The world’s fastest animal went extinct in India more than half a century ago. During Akbar’s rule, there were 10,000 cheetahs recorded and around 1,000 were under the emperor’s court. Then, the magnificent animal was bred in captivity under his son Jahangir’s reign in the 1500s. Unfortunately, due to ungoverned, merciless preying by royals, their numbers diminished greatly by the 19th century, with only 230 left. By the 20th century, they were being imported by British invaders for sport. Ultimately, all the ruthless hunting, destructions of their habitat, and unprocurable prey led to the great mammals’ extinction in India. The last sighting was reportedly in 1967-68. Since then, continuous efforts have been made to reinstate the Asiatic Cheetah, now only found in Iran.
Although rife with risks, the process of reintroducing animals is not rare. In 2017, four cheetahs were brought to Malawi, and are now 24 in number. Out of the 7,000 in the world, a majority of them can be found in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.
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