There are better ways than cheetahs to revive ecosystems

Source: The post is based on the articles “The Cheetah moment” and “There are better ways than cheetahs to revive ecosystems” published in The Indian Express on 19th September 2022.

Syllabus: GS3- Environment

Relevance: Species reintroduction

News: The article explains the recent government project of Cheetah reintroduction to India. Eight African cheetahs were recently reintroduced to Kuno national park.

What are the challenges associated with cheetah reintroduction?

The carrying capacity of the ecosystem is limited. There have been no proper studies about it.

Limited prey base in shrinking habitats creates ecological imbalances.

The increase in species and their numbers may lead to more human-animal conflicts.

Development projects such as highways further fragment the protected areas. It compels animals to venture out.

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 kuno national park is only748 sq kms. It can at best accommodate only 10 Cheetahs.

To achieve the objective of establishing the Cheetah’s functional role in the ecosystem, the projected number of cheetahs is very small.

It diverts attention and resources from priority conservation initiatives that are part of India’s National Wildlife Action Plan (2017-2031), which does not even mention the introduction of African cheetahs.

This project makes unrealistic claims about its conservation value for grasslands and other open forest ecosystems in India. The 21 cheetahs that are projected after 15 years, that too at one site is insufficient to conserve grassland.

It challenges the rule of law. It is an attempt to stall and further delay the translocation of lions as ordered by the Supreme Court in 2013. NTCA in its review petition before Supreme Court mentioned that the reintroduction of the cheetah is sought to be made in other places.

Confining the animal to one Protected Area increases its vulnerability to epidemics.

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