After 7 decades, India is poised to become home to cheetahs
India is ready to welcome cheetahs, the large carnivores that became extinct in the country in 1952, with a team of experts in Namibia preparing for their translocation most likely during this month.
WION confirms that all arrangements for the relocation of another set of cheetahs from South Africa are already in place, but the agreement between India and South Africa is in its final stages pending the signatures of the authorities.
India’s environment ministry said preparations had been made in India’s Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh state to welcome the cheetahs in August.
However, the ministry’s top reliable sources have said that the cheetahs will not arrive in India until its 75e Independence Day on August 15, as scheduled earlier.
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WION spoke to YV Jhala, the man representing India as the relocation officer who is currently overseeing developments in Namibia.
way of travel
Jhala, who is the dean of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), said the cheetahs will be flown in from Namibia and South Africa and brought to airports in Jaipur or Gwalior, in the Indian states of Rajasthan and of Madhya Pradesh respectively, given their proximity to their new home in Kuno National Park.
Another official confirmed the same and said the cheetahs would be brought in a chartered plane with vets from South Africa and Namibia on board and the animals would be transferred from Jaipur/Gwalior airports to Kuno via helicopters. .
Emergency ambulances were also organized in case they needed to be transported by road. The total journey time should be around 12 hours.
Will the cheetahs be tranquilized, quarantined?
According to Jhala, the cheetahs will be kept awake under light tranquilization for the duration of the trip.
However, SP Yadav, Member Secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority and Additional Chief Executive, Project Tiger, said the cheetahs would not be tranquilized even slightly as it could affect the animal’s health.
However, he said if the cheetahs show signs of agitation or abnormal behavior, a sedative can be administered to control them.
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Tranquilizers or sedatives are injected into the animals to control their anxiety, stress and restlessness. This makes them drowsy and calm and sometimes even in a sleepy state depending on the dosage
According to Jhala and Yadav, the cheetahs will undergo 30 days of quarantine at Kuno National Park after undergoing the same in their host country.
“The cheetahs will be quarantined in Kuno for 30 days to check for any abnormalities or illnesses. Two experts from South Africa and Namibia will come and stay here during this period,” Yadav told WION.
Why Kuno National Park, MP?
Wildlife experts have identified Kuno-Palpur National Park in India’s Madhya Pradesh for its cheetah-friendly landscape.
Established in 1981, Kuno National Park covers an area of 748.76 km2 and is part of the Kuno National Park Division which covers an area of 1235.39 km2. The Kuno River, one of the major tributaries of the Chambal River, runs through the entire length bisecting the national park division.
Kuno Park is home to tigers, jackals, chinkaras and leopards. It has the potential to carry populations of India’s four big cats, the tiger, leopard, Asiatic lion and also the cheetah, which have all co-existed in the same habitats historically.
According to NTCA, Kuno leopards are released in different enclosures to avoid their conflict with cheetahs.
India is confident it will provide the best environment for cheetahs, Yadav said, adding that experts from South Africa and Namibia have visited Kuno National Park and were very impressed with the location.
India’s MoUs with Namibia and South Africa
The Memorandum of Understanding between India and Namibia on the translocation of cheetahs has already been signed but that between India and South Africa is awaiting signature.
Officials said the MoU has been finalized on India’s side and is just to be signed by the South African president.
Speaking to WION, Albi Modise, spokesperson for South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs, said the translocation of cheetahs from South Africa to India is a “historic moment” and discussions are under way. underway between the two countries which will lead to the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between them.
“Discussions between South Africa and Indian officials have been ongoing for a few months. The discussions are part of the request and efforts to transfer some cheetahs from South Africa to India. party to the point where the two countries have agreed on the parameters within which the Memorandum of Understanding falls, which is a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed by Ministers in charge of the environment portfolio in Africa of the South and in India.
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“At this stage, not much can be said except to say that these discussions are indeed taking place, and these discussions will eventually lead to the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between South Africa and India facilitating the translocation of the cheetah from South Africa to India,” Modise said.
“This is a historic moment for us and we want to ensure that as it happens, it will happen within the parameters of clearly defined laws and will also meet the translocation requirements and specifications of this special nature,” he told WION. .
India’s Ministry of Environment said the effort to bring cheetahs to India will enhance the country’s ability to sequester carbon through ecosystem restoration activities in cheetah conservation areas and thus contribute to global goals. climate change mitigation.
“The project aims to establish a viable metapopulation of cheetahs in India that allows the cheetah to fulfill its functional role as a top predator and provide space for its expansion across its historic range, thereby contributing to its global conservation efforts,” said the Indian ministry.
He said the goal is also to use the cheetah as a charismatic flagship and umbrella species to garner resources to restore open forest and savannah systems that will benefit the biodiversity and ecosystem services of these ecosystems.
It also aims to quickly manage any cheetah or other wildlife conflict with local communities in cheetah conservation areas through compensation, awareness and management actions to gain community support, said the ministry.