Cheetah in India

Cheetahs in India went extinct long back in 1952 due to too much reckless hunting activities. They are back in the news as the decade-long plan to reintroduce the big cat in India sees some activities yet again.

After the plan hit another roadblock in December 2021 due to the CoVID19 pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions in Namibia, the concerned officials had to return to India.

The topic has a high chance of being asked as an Environment Questions in IAS Prelims.

Cheetah Physical Features

Following are some details about Cheetah you should know from the UPSC perspective:

  • The cheetah is the fastest land animal, which has the fastest running speed record of 93 and 98 km/h (58 and 61 mph).
  • It is considered to be a big cat and belongs to the Felidae family.
  • They have a small rounded head, a lightly built body, and a roundly spotted coat.
  • They have long thin limbs and long tails.

Note: UPSC 2022 is approaching closer, supplement your preparation with the free Environment Notes for UPSC by BYJU’s.

African Cheetah vs Asiatic Cheetah

African Cheetah Asiatic Cheetah
Scientific Name: Acinonyx Jubatus Scientific Name: Acinonyx Jubatus Venaticus
Found all over the African continent in thousands of numbers. Found only in Iran with less than 100 individuals left.
Slightly larger than the Asiatic counterpart. Slightly smaller than the African Cheetahs.
They have slightly brownish and golden skin which is thicker than the Asiatic Cheetahs. They have pale yellowish fawn coloured skin with more fur under their body, specifically on the belly.
They have much more prominent spots and lines on their face as compared to their Asian cousins. They have much less prominent spots and lines on their face.
African Cheetahs are much larger in population and listed as Vulnerable in the (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Asiatic Cheetahs have a very small population base and are listed as critically endangered species in the (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
Listed in Appendix 1 of the CITES list, which contains migratory species considered to be in danger of extinction.
African Cheetahs have a much diverse prey base that spans the whole African continent. Asiatic Cheetahs have a much smaller prey base than their African cousins. They prey only on small and medium-sized animals.

Read more about the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) in the attached link.

Re-introduction of Cheetahs in India

  • Although the project is a decade long, it is slowly picking up pace after the Supreme Court in January 2020 allowed the Union Government of India to go ahead with the plan.
  • Although the original intention was to bring Asiatic Cheetah to India from Iran, but due to recent developments in the international relations between the two countries, the plan changed to introduce African Cheetah instead.
  • Union Ministry of Environment had in the 19th meeting of the National Tiger Conservation Authority released “Action Plan for Introduction of Cheetah in India”.
  • National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has now decided to bring 50 African Cheetah from Namibia within the next 5 years.
    • 10-12 young Cheetah will be introduced in the first year as founder stocks.
    • Kuno Palpur National Park (KNP) in Madhya Pradesh is the first site to host these cheetahs.
    • They’ll be imported from Namibia and/or South Africa with the assistance from Ministry of External Affairs.
    • A radio collar with an inbuilt satellite GPS will be put on each of these Cheetahs.
  • Cheetah is listed in Schedule 2 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972, even though it was extinct long back before this law was even framed.

Note: Download the official list of animals and plants listed in the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) 1972. 

Recent Developments

  • There is no deadline for the Cheetah Task Force to do the relocation of the Cheetah.
    • The relocation activities will start as soon as the Government of India and the Government of South Africa and/or Namibia finalise the deal.
  • Kuno Palpur National Park is on the verge to complete the necessary infrastructure projects for the Cheetahs. 
    • Fencing is being done to keep the predators away from the new guests.
    • Culverts will be installed to ensure adequate water supply to this area.
    • Surveillance cameras have also been installed to monitor the activities and surroundings of these Cheetahs.
    • The landscape is being altered to remove any obstructions lying in the Cheetah’s way of prey.
    • Invasive species such as thorny bushes have been removed and palatable grasses such as themeda grass and marble grass as well as a few wild legumes have been introduced to the area.
  • An idea is being considered to introduce more Chitals from the Narsinghgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh to this area for the Cheetah to prey upon.

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