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Cheetahs in India: Tracing the Extinction of Cheetah in India and Re-introduction policy

Cheetahs in India- Relevance for UPSC Exam

Cheetahs in India: NTCA is planning to reintroduce Cheetah in India in order to ensure that cheetah are inhabiting the country again after their extinction from India. Protection and Reintroduction of Cheetahs in India will come under GS Paper 3 (Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation) of the UPSC CSE Mains Syllabus 2022.

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Cheetahs in India in in News

  • Recently, the Union Environment Ministry informed that India is set to bring cheetahs from South Africa to Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno-Palpur National Park by August this year.

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Cheetah in India

  • The cheetah is the only large carnivore to have gone extinct in India, primarily due to hunting and habitat loss.
  • Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo of Korea, Madhya Pradesh, is widely believed to have killed the last three recorded cheetahs in India in 1947.
  • In 1952, the Indian government officially declared the Cheetah extinct in the country.

19th Meeting of NTCA: 50 Cheetah to be introduced in next 5 years

 

Cheetah in India- Tracing the Extinction Journey of Cheetah in India

  • Hunting with the cheetahs: The cheetah, which was relatively easy to tame and less dangerous than tigers, was frequently used by Indian nobility for sport-hunting.
    • The earliest available record for cheetahs being used for hunts in India, comes from the 12th century Sanskrit text Manasollasa, which was produced by the Kalyani Chalukya ruler, Someshvara III (reigned from 1127-1138 CE).
    • Emperor Akbar, who reigned from 1556-1605, was particularly fond of the activity and is recorded to have collected 9,000 cheetahs in total.
    • Emperor Jahangir (ruled from 1605-1627) took after his father and is said to have caught more than 400 antelopes by cheetah coursing in the pargana of Palam.
    • The capture of wild cheetahs for hunting and the difficulty to breed them in captivity was leading to a decline in the cheetah population, even before the entry of the British.
  • Near extinction under the British Raj: they preferred to hunt big game, such as tigers, bison and elephants.
    • Under the British Raj, forests were extensively cleared, so as to develop settlements and to set up indigo, tea and coffee plantations.
    • This further resulted in the loss of habitat for big cats, contributing to their decline.
    • British officials considered the animal as “vermin” and also distributed monetary rewards for the killing of cheetahs from at least 1871 onwards.
    • The rewards for bounty hunting likely caused the decline of cheetahs, as even the removal of a small number would have negatively affected the ability of wild cheetahs to reproduce even at the lowest level required for survival.
    • As a result, wild cheetahs became very rare in India by the 20th century.

Global Risks Report 2022

 

Demand for Reintroduction of Cheetah

  • The State Wildlife Board of Andhra Pradesh was the first to suggest the policy in 1955, on an experimental basis in two districts of the state.
  • In the 1970s, the Department of Environment formally requested Iran, which had 300 Asiatic cheetahs at the time, for some cheetahs.
    • However, the Shah of Iran was deposed before any deal could be reached.
  • Attempts to bring cheetahs to India were revived once more in 2009, and the Wildlife Trust of India conducted a meeting to discuss the feasibility of cheetah reintroduction.
    • Several sites were chosen, of which Kuno-Palpur National Park was seen as the most suitable.
    • This was because the area had a large habitat area available and significant investments had already been made to displace the villagers inhabiting the site.

 

Supreme Court on Reintroduction of Cheetah

  • The Supreme Court in 2010 stayed the order to reintroduce cheetah to Kuno- Palpur because the National Board for Wildlife had not been privy to the matter.
    • The court said that priority should be given to the reintroduction of the Asiatic lion, which is only found in Gir National Park, Gujarat.
  • In 2020, while responding to a plea by the government, the Supreme Court announced that African cheetahs could be introduced in a “carefully chosen location” on an experimental basis.

 

Tiger Deaths, Tiger Conservation status and Protection Measures in India

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