|A cheetah in its natural habitat|
The cheetah has been widely noted for its grace, beauty, and speed for generations. When most people think about this feline, they mainly associate it with Africa. However, it had one time ranged from Africa to southern Asia. Coincidentally, the word "cheetah" derives from a Sanskrit word meaning "spotted one." This lean and swift creature was once a prized companion for emperors and maharajas during the Mughal Empire, who used it to hunt fast game such as blackbuck and gazelles. Unfortunately, as time progressed, its population began to deplete rapidly all over India and the Middle East. By 1947, India had lost its last cheetah amidst the period of independence from Britain. However, India considered to reintroduce the animal in early 2000s but the project could not be put into action after Iran refused to give its pair of cheetahs to India for cloning. But now since 2009, India has become keen in bringing the cheetah back; only this time it was going to be through importation of the African species from some nations. The goal was to breed the ones imported in captivity, and then release them in India's protected semi-arid habitats.
One recent site for reintroduction is the Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The plan will be to translocate cheetahs from Namibia to this sanctuary located in Sheopur district. Sartaj Singh, Forest Minister of Madhya Pradesh, hopes that if all goes well according to plan, the cheetah would be brought by either the end of December to early January. He further added that surveys had been done and experts were in favor of the project. At the same time, a team of experts from Namibia visited the 344.686 square kilometer-sanctuary with local conservationists and senior forest department officials to work on the reintroduction strategy.
Although I'm very happy to see that Madhya Pradesh has confirmed a location to reintroduce cheetahs, I'm only concerned about how this plan will go together with the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project. Minister Singh stated in this article that both the animals will coexist in Palpur-Kuno. However, it has been noted that cheetah has the highest mortality rate than any other animal. In fact, 90% of cheetah cubs do not survive to adulthood due to predation by lions and other powerful predators. My feeling is that suppose if this project will go along with that of the Asiatic lion, there would be a fair chance the lion will dominate over the cheetah. This would in turn spell disaster for India's cheetah reintroduction. I personally think that if conservationists and experts want to bring the cheetah to Palpur-Kuno, then they should put the plan to bring lions there on hold for sometime. Both these are the main conservation projects in India, and if one is affected in any significant way, then it would have a huge impact on the nation's conservation.
In addition to that, I'm also concerned about the status of the local Sahariya tribe living in the surrounding area. Ever since the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project was implemented, several members of this tribe were relocated to edge of the sanctuary where they live poverty. I also believe that, in order to revive populations of both the people and the cheetahs, there should be a plan to establish a buffer zone in the sanctuary for the tribe and a core zone for the animals. Before being forced to relocate, these tribes had access to various necessities like water but now they do not simply because of this idea of lion/cheetah reintroduction being given more attention to.
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