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    Why is India getting cheetahs from Namibia

    Why is India getting cheetahs from Namibia

    Why is India getting cheetahs from Namibia
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    By CNBCTV18.com  IST (Published)

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    The species of cheetahs was declared extinct in India in 1952. There are only about 7,000 cheetahs left in the world and a majority of them are found in African savannas.

    The first batch of eight cheetahs is expected to arrive from Namibia this month. The group of cheetahs -- four male and four females -- will be introduced in Madhya Pradesh. This proposed transfer of cheetahs from Namibia to India was made possible last month after Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav signed an MoU with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Namibia Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah to reintroduce the African cheetah in India.
    There are only about 7,000 cheetahs left in the world and a majority of them are found in African savannas.
    The memorandum, signed in New Delhi, also focused on "cooperation on wildlife conservation and sustainable biodiversity utilisation". However, the total number of cheetahs to be transferred to India from Namibia wasn't disclosed by the government.
    “The MoU aims to facilitate cheetah conservation in both countries by way of exchange of expertise, sharing of good practices in the field of wildlife conservation, use of technology and sustainable management of biodiversity,” Yadav tweeted after signing the MoU.
     
    History
    According to official records, India had Asiatic cheetahs, though only a few in number, in 1947. However, the species was declared extinct in India in 1952. It is said that the last three cheetahs were gunned down by Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo of Surguja state (presently the Guru Ghasidas National Park in Chhattisgarh) in 1948. At present, Asiatic cheetahs are a critically endangered species surviving only in Iran.
    Since the 1960s, the government of India has been trying to get cheetahs into the country. Earlier, the government tried to get Asiatic cheetahs from Iran. However, the plan didn’t work out as Tehran declined the transfer of cheetahs because of the critically low population numbers of the species.
    Following a period of inactivity, India renewed its efforts to procure a cheetah. This time, the government focused on Africa. In 2009, the country achieved a breakthrough during Jairam Ramesh’s tenure as the Environment Minister. He pushed the project to acquire cheetahs and around that time, there were reports that India has reached out to Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in Namibia and other captive facilities based in South Africa.
    Significance of reintroducing cheetahs in India
    According to India’s Environment Ministry, “The main goal of the Cheetah reintroduction project in India is to establish viable cheetah metapopulation in India that allows the cheetah to perform its functional role as a top predator and provides space for the expansion of the cheetah within its historical range thereby contributing to its global conservation efforts.”
    The reintroduction of cheetahs in India has a larger goal of “re-establishing ecological function in Indian grasslands that was lost due to extinction of Asiatic cheetah”, Yadav said and added that “this conforms with IUCN guidelines on conservation translocations.”
    India's cheetah plan
    The cheetahs will be released in a 500-hectare electrically-fenced area in the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. They are not being released into the wild completely as experts want to keep them under observation initially.
    Before the arrival of cheetahs, the authorities of Kuno Park have already shifted leopards to ensure that the two species don't engage in a duel over territory. As for the cheetahs' food, the park authorities have claimed that there are 15,000-20,000 spotted deer for them. In case of a shortage of prey for cheetahs, chitals would be brought for them from the Pench National Park (also in Madhya Pradesh).
    Concerns
    Environmentalists and wildlife experts have pointed out that several hundred crores will be spent on bringing in the new species. This money could have been spent on the conservation of native endangered species. They are also not impressed with the government's argument that cheetahs would help in garnering resources to restore open forest and savanna systems. Experts say that a better way of restoring open forest and savanna systems is to not classify these as wastelands.
     
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