12 cheetahs arrive at Kuno National Park from South Africa
Sheopur: Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav today released twelve cheetahs brought from South Africa at Kuno National Park, Sheopur, Madhya Pradesh in the presence of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.
Yadav specially thanked the Indian Air Force for their efforts in making it possible for getting 12 cheetahs from South Africa to the Kuno National Park.
This multi-disciplinary international programme is being coordinated by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) in collaboration with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), South African National Parks (SANParks), The Cheetah Metapopulation Initiative, the Faculty of Veterinary Science of the University of Pretoria and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) in South Africa together with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of India, the High Commission of India, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and Madhya Pradesh Forest Department.
Now the total number of cheetahs in Kuno National Park has increased to 20. Last year in the month of September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi released 8 cheetahs brought from Namibia in Kuno National Park.
The cheetah was declared extinct in India in 1952. Restoring its populations is considered by India to have vital and far-reaching conservation consequences, which would aim to achieve a number of ecological objectives, including re-establishing the function role of cheetahs within their historical range in India and improving and enhancing the livelihood options and economies of the local communities.
Earlier this year, the governments of South Africa and India signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation on the Re-introduction of cheetah to India. The MoU facilitates cooperation between the two countries to establish a viable and secure cheetah population in India; promotes conservation and ensures that expertise is shared and exchanged, and capacity is built, to promote cheetah conservation. This includes human-wildlife conflict resolution, capture and translocation of wildlife and community participation in conservation in the two countries.
Yesterday, South Africa translocated the 12 cheetahs to India as part of the initiative to expand the cheetah meta-population and to reintroduce cheetahs to a former range state following their local extinction due to overhunting and loss of habitat in the last century.
Concerted efforts were made to select the best possible cheetah for the reintroduction effort. All 12 cheetahs are wild born and have grown up amongst competing predators including lions, leopards, hyenas and wild dogs. “They are considered predator savvy and should respond appropriately when they encounter a new predator guild in India that includes tigers, leopards, wolves, dholes, striped hyenas, and sloth bears,” the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change stated.
The cheetahs were made available by South Africa’s Phinda Game Reserve (3), Tswalu Kalahari Reserve (3), the Waterberg Biosphere (3), Kwandwe Game Reserve (2) and Mapesu Game Reserve (1) and their translocation is in line with The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Guidelines for Reintroductions and Other Conservation Translocation and in accordance with international veterinary standards and protocols.
Following the import of the 12 cheetahs this year, India plans to translocate a further 12 annually for the next eight to 10 years. Scientific assessments will be undertaken periodically to inform such translocations.
Conservation translocations have become a common practice to conserve species and restore ecosystems. South Africa plays an active role in providing founders for the population and range expansion of iconic species such as cheetahs.
“It is because of South Africa’s successful conservation practices that our country is able to participate in a project such as this – to restore a species in a former range state and thus contribute to the future survival of the species,” South Africa’s Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, said.
Worldwide, cheetah numbers have declined from an estimated 15 000 adults in 1975 to a current global population of fewer than 7 000 individuals. In South Africa, the transition to democracy had substantial implications for wild cheetah conservation. The Game Theft Act (No. 105 of 1991) was responsible for a major change in land use from agriculture to ecotourism. Since 1994 cheetahs have been reintroduced into 63 newly established game reserves that currently support a combined metapopulation of 460 individuals.
The South African Department of Fisheries, Forestry and the Environment has approved the export of up to 29 wild cheetahs per annum to support conservation efforts for the species outside of the country. In a media statement, the said department said the cheetah will join eight of the mammals relocated to India’s Kuno National Park from Namibia in September 2022.
The cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, is the world’s fastest mammal and is endemic to the savannahs of Africa. While southern Africa is the cheetah’s regional stronghold, it is considered to be vulnerable under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
– global bihari bureau