Prelims level : Bio Diversity & Its Threat Mains level : GS-III Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.
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Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court has lifted its seven-year stay on a proposal to introduce African cheetahs from Namibia into the Indian habitat on an Experimental Basis.

About Cheetahs:

  • Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) are large cat of the subfamily Felinae and are considered as the fastest land animal.
  • The 4 subspecies of cheetahs are Southeast African cheetah, Asiatic cheetah, Northeast African cheetah and Northwest African cheetah.
  • They are found in North, Southern and East Africa, and a few localities in Iran.
  • It inhabits a variety of mostly arid habitats like dry forests, scrub forests, and savannahs.
  • The cheetah has been classified as Vulnerableby the IUCN; and listed under Appendix I of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).

Reasons behind Extinction of Cheetah:

  • Loss of Grassland Habitat:Inability to breed while in captivity meant that wild cheetahs were only found in natural habitats. Thus loss of habitat meant detrimental to Cheetah population.
  • Cheetahs were classified as vermin(harmful to crops and spreads diseases) during British period. This led to rewarding the act of killing of Cheetah.
  • Problems like Human-Wildlife Conflict, loss of prey, and illegal trafficking, have also decimated their Numbers.

About Cheetah Reintroduction Programme:

  • The last Cheetah died in Chhattisgarh in 1947 after which it was declared extinct in India in 1952.
  • Since 1970s India is trying to bring back the big cat from Iran. However due to lower number of cheetahs in Iran it was not considered being feasible.
  • In 2009, the reintroduction project has got a fillip and India was exploring a plan of importing the South African cheetah from Namibia for reintroduction in India.
  • 3 regions were shortlisted for reintroduction including:
  • The Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary and Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuaries in Madhya Pradesh and the Shahgarh bulge landscape in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.


Why Reintroduction Programme Delayed?

  • IUCN guidelines require a no-objection certificate for translocation of wildlife species. Besides the guidelines warn against the introduction of alien or exotic species. Finally in December 2018, IUCN gave no-objection certificate for translocation.
  • The reintroduction plan to Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary hit a roadblock as it was also been shortlisted for introduction of Asiatic Lions from Gir forest in Gujarat. A petition was filed in the Supreme Court with respect to this and now it has lifted its stay order.
  • Lack of funds hindered the reintroduction project in Nauradehi sanctuary in MP. Recently MP has shown interest in revival of the cheetah reintroduction project.

Implications of the Reintroduction:

  • Reintroducing cheetahs in India will help relieve pressure on the species by creating additional habitat, which the cheetah desperately needs to survive.
  • It will also help increase the species genetic diversity.
  • Being one of the oldest of the big cat species, with ancestors that can be traced back more than five million years to the Miocene era.
  • With great speed and dexterity, the cheetah is known for being an excellent hunter, its kills feeding many other animals in its ecosystem—ensuring that Multiple Species Survive.
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