Scientists plan to repopulate India with cheetahs

(ORDO NEWS) — Cheetahs became extinct in India in the middle of the 20th century. However, they will soon return to this country.

According to The Guardian, eight cheetahs from Namibia will be released in the Kuno-Palpur National Park in Madhya Pradesh in mid-August.

According to the plan, the return of these cats will contribute to the restoration of the local ecosystem.

However, some experts criticize the project for using African cheetahs instead of Asian cheetahs that once lived in India.

People have long exterminated large predatory mammals, depriving them of their prey and destroying their habitat. It is not surprising that the number and range of many of their species have declined sharply (and some species and subspecies have become completely extinct).

However, in recent decades there has been a growing understanding that predators play an important role in ecosystems.

As a result, there are more and more projects aimed at returning these animals to regions where they once disappeared due to human fault. For example, Himalayan bears (Ursus thibetanus) have been successfully reintroduced into South Korea, and lynxes (Lynx lynx) have been considered in Scotland.

India, it would seem, does not lack large predators: tigers (P. tigris), leopards (P. pardus), Asiatic lions (P. leo persica), wolves (Canis lupus) and some other species live here. However, the Indian government has long planned to bring cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) back into the country.

Today, these cats live almost exclusively in Africa, but in the past, a separate subspecies A. j. venaticus was distributed from the Middle East in the west to the Indian subcontinent in the east and the Aral Sea in the north.

In most regions, Asiatic cheetahs became extinct by the middle of the 20th century due to hunting, prey shortages, and habitat destruction. They survived only in Iran, and their population here is only 12 individuals and may disappear in the coming years.

In India, cheetahs were officially declared extinct in 1952. Early attempts to bring the Asian subspecies into the country from Iran were thwarted by the 1979 revolution, and today the Iranian population of cheetahs is so small that it is impossible to use them for reintroduction.

Therefore, it is now planned to bring African cheetahs to India. After the idea was approved by the local Supreme Court in 2020, Indian officials are actively working to bring back the cheetahs.

Now this project has finally reached the final stage. Within the next month, eight cheetahs will arrive in India from Namibia, where the largest population of this species lives.

They will be released at the Kuno Palpur National Park in Madhya Pradesh on August 15, the 75th anniversary of the country’s independence. The return of cheetahs to the park is expected to benefit the local ecosystem. If the first eight individuals successfully take root in India, their relatives will join them.

It should be noted that not all conservationists approve of the plan to reintroduce cheetahs to India. Some of them note that Asian and African cheetahs are too different from each other for the former to be replaced by the latter.

In addition, there are concerns that there is not enough space and prey in the Kuno-Palpur Park for a full-fledged population of these cats. Finally, a high-profile project could divert attention from native Indian species that are in urgent need of protection.

The return of cheetahs to India could cause conflicts between them and farmers who fear for the welfare of livestock. However, zoologists have discovered a simple way to reduce the number of such conflicts.

It turned out that in the territories of cheetahs there are so-called “communication nodes”, where they spend more than half of their time and where trees, termite mounds and stones used for scent marks are located.

By avoiding breeding herds of cows near such sites, Namibian farmers have been able to reduce livestock losses by 86 percent.

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