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It’s the survival of the fittest for the Indian wildlife


It's the healthiest species survival for Indian wildlife

The cheetahs have returned to India. More than 70 years have passed since the last Asian leopard was hunted in India by royalty and the wealthy. To completely eradicate a species – it’s not child’s play. Real effort has been made, and clearly not in a good way. It took real men and women some great “courage” to take down the “beast”. The pride they must feel!

Anyway, more than 70 years on, eight Asian leopard cousins, from Namibia, were brought to India on September 17, 2022.


Project Cheetah is an ambitious project by the Government of India to re-establish this species in its original natural range in India. Project Cheetah was also the world’s first large intercontinental translocation of large wild carnivores.

After a 10-hour flight from Windhoek in Namibia to Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, and finally to Palpur-Kuno National Park, the eight cheetah cubs were finally released into an isolation enclosure in the park, where they will be observed for a while.

It's the healthiest species survival for Indian wildlife

One can’t help but wonder – but these are African species. How will they cope in the Indian wilderness? It’s not like they come from a similar ecosystem. This one-of-a-kind migration is what everyone is waiting to see how it plays out. It’s a brand new addition to the list of top big carnivores in India. Although they are cheetahs, they are not even from the same continent, and this has caused much debate in the media.

We, at Travel eradecided that we would hear from the subject matter experts themselves.

Speaking with us on the topic of the outcomes of the African leopard resettlement project, Mr. Praveen Rao Koli, retired Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer and Principal Director of Forests, Uttar Pradesh, “Authorities have to be very attentive and vigilant when it comes to animal resettlement. This is a case of transcontinental displacement, meaning that these cheetahs are removed from their homeland to a completely foreign ecosystem. Great care is required to protect cats from any kind of microbial infection. Failure to do this could lead to the unfortunate 2014 situation in Etawah, UP, where two Asian lions died within a month of relocation. “

It's the healthiest species survival for Indian wildlife

We also spoke with Vivek Menon, Founder and ED – Wildlife Trust of India, IUCN Commissioner & AsESG President, Advisor Sr IFAW, on the topic of reintroducing cheetahs into the wild. wildlife (specifically the African leopard), into an exotic ecosystem, and the type of impact it has on the ecosystem and introduced species.

“I think it’s a good thing to bring back any species that we’ve lost. We have to be bold in many management issues and not be subject to very conservative thinking. Genetically, The jaguar experienced a bottleneck 10,000 years ago, and there’s Vivek Menon who says there’s not much of a difference between the African or the Asian leopard.

We can’t talk about reintroducing species without mentioning the elephant in the room – which is currently on the verge of extinction.

It's the healthiest species survival for Indian wildlife

A critically endangered Bengali woman from Assam

When asked what this cheetah means for which species, who will share the same ecosystem and also some of the most threatened species in the world are struggling to survive, Vivek Menon added. , “If it is, that is a positive thing. At a later stage, when subsequent generations of cheetahs move into habitats with these threatened species, that habitat will be more protected. What we won’t do for the caracal or the Great Indian Bustard (both Critically Endangered), we’ll do for the leopard because it’s more appealing and attracts people’s attention. Other species will also benefit from this.”

He added: “It’s important to conserve lions, to conserve tigers, to preserve storks, to bring back cheetahs. We have to find a way to do them all, not one.”

It's the healthiest species survival for Indian wildlife

Indian Courser from Nashik

We can only hope that this works for cheetahs and Indian wildlife in general because when this topic is discussed there will be some words that go beyond conservation of threatened species. in India but also for the conservation of forest and grassland ecosystems.

Other endangered species in India

Speaking of conservation, in India, according to the Red Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are 13 Critically Endangered bird species and 34 identified as Critically Endangered in the mammal class. , reptiles, fish and amphibians. .

Animals such as snow leopards, hounds (including rose), hangul (Kashmiri deer), Nilgiri tahr, pygmy boar, Asian buffalo, Manipur giraffe, Asiatic lion, Swamp deer, to name a few species, all of them are on the verge of extinction, largely due to illegal hunting and habitat loss.

It's the healthiest species survival for Indian wildlife

Chinese pangolin from Tamenglong, Manipur (rescued and released into the wild)

Among these, there is a silent victim of poaching and habitat loss – the Chinese pangolin.

Did you know that there is a remote corner in Manipur, which may well be one of the last natural habitats of these Chinese pangolins? The exact location is kept secret by conservationists who do this, as it also comes with the problem of the international animal trade.

You have read correctly.

The pangolin is the most trafficked mammal in the world. The Corbett Foundation, along with the Tamenglong Rainforest Club (Tamenglong-based non-profit organization) and the Manipur Forest Service, are working to conserve the Chinese pangolin and restore its habitat.

Some of the views of Parveen Kaswan, IFS, also shed light on what happened to cheetah populations in India. Before they became extinct, big cats were hunted, hunted, and tamed for further hunting. There is recorded evidence that the Mughal emperor Akbar went on an expedition with cheetahs in his hunting expedition. Mr Kaswan also shared a transcript of an advertisement by the Government of India at the time, urging tourists to come to the country to hunt in its “luxury forests”.

When a major move like the cheetah relocation emerges, one can’t help but hope that the same level of enthusiasm and interest will be given to other species as well. They say survival of the fittest, but all these animals also deserve a fighting chance, they deserve a habitat. Just like the one we provide for the cheetah.

  1. What is Project Cheetah?
    Project Cheetah is an ambitious project by the Government of India to re-establish this species in its original natural range in India. The Cheetah Project was also the world’s first large intercontinental translocation of large wild carnivores.
  2. How many Critically Endangered animals are there in India?
    According to the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are 13 critically endangered bird species and 34 identified as Critically Endangered in the class of mammals, reptiles, fish and amphibians.
  3. Where is Kuno National Park?
    Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh





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