SC urges Centre to transfer cheetahs to another location
The deaths of 40% of the 20 cheetahs transferred to the Kuno National Park (KNP) from South Africa and Namibia within a year does not paint a good image, the Supreme Court (SC) informed the Union government on Thursday.
What is Project Cheetah?
- Project Cheetah:
- Project Cheetah’s goal is to reintroduce cheetahs to India’s Kuno National Park (KNP) in order to bring the species back to the country’s historic range.
- The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), which is in charge of the project, is working with a group of experts from several organizations.
- Challenges Faced:
- The initiative is distinctive, complicated, and without parallel in history because it is the first transcontinental reintroduction of a wild, large carnivore species.
- The initial phase of relocating twenty cheetahs from southern Africa to KNP requires careful preparation and execution.
- Translocation Success:
- 20 cheetahs were successfully relocated from southern Africa to the KNP in two phases (September 2022 and February 2023) with great success.
- All of the caught cheetahs were judged to be in fair physical condition after the inspection and survived the lengthy quarantine and journey to KNP.
- Cheetah Behavior:
- The cheetahs displayed a range of behaviours after being set free. Some, like Gaurav and Shaurya, lived inside KNP and had no desire to venture outside its boundaries.
- Others (like Aasha) showed exploratory trips to regions of the larger Kuno terrain outside of KNP’s bounds.
- Pawan, a male cheetah, travelled far beyond KNP and into fields close to the Uttar Pradesh border.
- Future Plans:
- Before the start of the monsoon rains in June, five more cheetahs (three females and two males) will be released into free-roaming circumstances in KNP.
- During the monsoon season, the remaining 10 cheetahs will stay in the acclimation camps, permitting interactions between certain males and females.
- Monitoring and Protection:
- Cheetahs are outfitted with satellite collars to track their whereabouts at least twice every day for monitoring and protection.
- To ensure the cheetahs’ safety and acclimatization, monitoring teams accompany the released animals around the clock, keeping tabs on their behaviour and prey hunting.
What is the difference between Indian Cheetahs and African cheetahs?
- Geographical Distribution:
- Asiatic Cheetah: As implied by the species name, Asiatic cheetahs are primarily found in hilly areas, foothills, and rocky valleys within a desert ecosystem. They only exist in a small population in Iran and are thought to be highly endangered.
- African Cheetah: Found in a variety of nations throughout sub-Saharan Africa, African cheetahs have a significantly wider geographic range. They can be found in a variety of environments, such as open plains, savannas, and grasslands.
- Size And Physical Appearances:
- Asian cheetahs are lighter build and slightly smaller than their African counterparts in terms of size and physical appearance. Their coat is paler and has fewer, smaller markings. Compared to African cheetahs, their fur is typically more golden and less tawny.
- African Cheetah: Compared to Asiatic Cheetahs, African Cheetahs are bigger and stronger. They have a coat that is more tawny in hue with distinct, bigger black patches. They appear slightly more robust and muscular all over.
- Genetic Differences:
- According to recent genetic investigations, the genetic lineages of African and Asian cheetahs are unique from one another. Between 30,000 and 70,000 years ago, the two subspecies’ genetic makeup is thought to have diverged.
- Social Structure and Behaviour:
- Both subspecies exhibit similar social tendencies in terms of social structure. Except when mating and rearing cubs, they are typically solitary creatures. However, given to variances in their homes and surrounding environments, there might be some behavioural variations.
- Conservation Status:
- According to the IUCN Red List, the Asiatic cheetah is highly endangered, and its population is immediately at risk of going extinct. Iran is making efforts to preserve its remaining people.
- African Cheetah: The population of the African cheetah is more dispersed across several African nations, even though it is also categorized as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Threats still exist, though, including dwindling prey populations, habitat destruction, and human conflict.
What is the situation faced by these Cheetahs now?
- Eight deaths, or 40% of the cheetahs transferred from South Africa and Namibia to Kuno National Park, have occurred since March.
- The Supreme Court expressed worry about the high mortality rate and advised the administration to take into account moving the remaining cheetahs, if necessary, to a more suitable setting. The Supreme Court was represented by a Bench led by Justice B.R. Gavai.
- The court cautioned the government against making this a “prestige issue,” noting that the welfare of the animals should come before any sense of accomplishment over the cheetah project.
- The Centre (Union government), represented by Additional Solicitor-General Aishwarya Bhati, recognized the tragic fatalities but claimed that they were anticipated for several reasons.
- Before the August 1 hearing, the court ordered the government to provide a thorough affidavit outlining the events leading up to the cheetahs’ demise.