[Answered] The cheetah re-introduction programme has a larger goal of improving India’s grasslands. Do you think, this is an optimal way to conserve India’s grasslands?

Introduction: Contextual introduction.
Body: Explain how cheetah re-introduction programme is an optimal way to conserve India’s grasslands. Also write some challenges.
Conclusion: Write a way forward.

The Cheetah Reintroduction project aims to establish a viable cheetah metapopulation in India that allows the cheetah to perform its functional role as a top predator and provide space for the expansion of the cheetah within its historic range thereby contributing to its global conservation efforts. India has translocated 8 African cheetahs from Namibia and 12 from South Africa.

An optimal way to conserve India’s grasslands:

  • It is a grassland-based species. In saving the cheetah other species which are grassland based and endangered are also saved.
  • Cheetahs do indicate the overall wellness of open areas, meadows and grasslands and the ungulate populations (deer and chinkara)/cheetahs’ usual prey.
  • So, the health of the cheetah population does count as a surrogate marker of the health of the grasslands.
  • As it has been seen in the case of tigers (The Project Tiger 1973), there has been a remarkable increase in the tiger reserves from 9 to 53. Therefore, it is expected that reintroduction of cheetahs will also help in the improvement of the ecosystem.

Challenges of cheetah re-introduction programme:

  • Cheetahs may not help in restoring grasslands until India addresses other issues. For example, The Wasteland Atlas of India still categorises large stretches of open natural ecosystems as wasteland.
  • Renewable energy projects are granted large tracts of open natural ecosystems, to establish solar panels. The level of human presence is high in these grassland.
  • Lack of sufficient prey in Kuno National Park(KNP) was a “concerning” situation.
  • The carrying capacity of the ecosystem is limited. There have been no proper studies about it.
  • The increase in species and their numbers may lead to more human-animal conflicts.
  • There is a lack of suitable habitats of sufficient size for them. In the best of habitats like Kenya and Tanzania, cheetahs exist in very low densities of around 1 per 100 sq km. The area of KNP is only748 sq kms. It can at best accommodate only 10 Cheetahs.
  • The 21 cheetahs that are projected after 15 years, that too at one site is insufficient to conserve grassland.
  • Confining the animal to one Protected Area increases its vulnerability to epidemics.

Cheetah conservation can be used for consolidation of grassland and shrubland that are decaying. Eco-tourism along with conservation can be promoted. However, there is also a need to address the challenge associated with it because there have been experiences that people over do it.

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