19 Sep Project Cheetah
This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details “Project Cheetah”. This topic has relevance in the “Environment and Ecology” section of the UPSC CSE exam.
What is Project Cheetah?
GS3: Environment and Ecology
Why in the news?
India’s cheetah introduction program has completed its first year. The program officially started with the arrival of eight cheetahs from Namibia on September 17, 2022, as part of Project Cheetah.
About Cheetahs in India
- The cheetah population in India was widespread, found in various regions nationwide. However, the Indian government officially declared the cheetah extinct in 1952.
- Over-hunting, loss of prey species, and habitat degradation contributed to the extinction of cheetahs in India. The country’s focus on agriculture and land-use changes further reduced their habitat.
- Earlier attempts to reintroduce cheetahs in India were unsuccessful for various reasons, including the need to upgrade potential release sites and political instability in Iran, which had the preferred cheetah population for relocation.
- In 2020, the Supreme Court of India approved efforts to relocate cheetahs, and the African cheetahs were chosen for introduction.
- The cheetah introduction project aims to establish a viable cheetah population in India that can function as a top predator and expand within its historical range, contributing to global conservation efforts.
The status of the project Cheetah
- Imported Cheetahs: 20 adult African cheetahs have been imported for the project. The initial batch of eight cheetahs arrived in September 2022, followed by another group of 12 from South Africa in February 2023. In March 2023, one female cheetah in India gave birth to four cubs, marking a significant development.
- Mortalities: Tragically, six cheetahs, four in captivity and two in the wild have died. Four adult cheetahs are yet to experience free-ranging life, and three out of four cubs have also perished, with the sole surviving cub under human care due to maternal rejection.
- Current Captivity: After the deaths of three cheetahs in July-August, the remaining ten free cheetahs were captured for observation, removal of radio collars, and treatment. Currently, all surviving 14 adult cheetahs and one cub are in captivity. The project authorities are considering radio-collaring them again and planning for their release in the upcoming winter.
- Future Plans: Additional sites, such as Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary and Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary, are being prepared for potential releases, with Gandhi Sagar expected to be ready by year-end and Nauradehi by 2024. Importing more cheetahs from Africa is also under consideration for the coming year.
Understanding the Causes of Cheetah Deaths
Recently, the deaths of six adult cheetahs and three cubs have raised concerns and questions regarding the factors contributing to their demise. Contrary to speculation, radio collars are not the primary cause of these fatalities.
- The Renal Condition: The first cheetah’s demise was attributed to chronic kidney disease, prompting questions about the decision to transport a sick animal and introduce it to a new environment.
- Failed Mating Attempts: One female cheetah died during mating attempts, casting doubt on the urgency of captive breeding.
- Heatwave: Three cubs, born in March 2023, succumbed to heatwave conditions, raising concerns about their breeding and captivity.
- Unresolved Cardio-Pulmonary Failure: Another male cheetah’s death due to cardio-pulmonary failure leaves questions about the ultimate cause unanswered.
- Monsoon Deaths: The last three deaths occurred during the monsoon, with conflicting reports about their causes but no definitive answers provided.
Lessons for the Future
- Prioritise Habitat: To ensure cheetah conservation success, emphasis should be placed on establishing high-quality habitats covering at least 5,000 square kilometres before importing more cheetahs from Africa.
- Transparency and Consultation: There is a need for greater transparency and broader consultation in conservation projects to improve decision-making and accountability.
Q1. With reference to Project Cheetah, consider the following statements:
- The cheetah introduction program in India began with the arrival of eight cheetahs from Namibia in 2020 as part of Project Cheetah.
- The primary goal of the cheetah introduction project in India is to establish a viable cheetah population that can function as a top predator.
- The cheetahs were introduced in the Kuno National Park in MP.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 3 only
Q2. Consider the following pairs:
- Kuno National Park – Madhya Pradesh
- Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary – Gujarat
- Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary – Chhattisgarh
How many of the abovementioned pairs are correct?
(a) Only one
(b) Only two
(c) All three
Q3. Discuss the significance of the Cheetah reintroduction project in India, its objectives, and the challenges faced in its first year. Also, evaluate its potential impact on the conservation of endangered species in India.