September 19, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether reintroducing cheetahs in India is the right approach. We also look at the data regarding vehicles and roads in Delhi, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Reintroduction Of Cheetahs – Is It The Right Approach?
Steve Irwin once said the message is simple – love and conserve our wildlife. As climate change, global warming, population growth, and urbanisation transform our lives, there are losers. Wildlife conservation is a round-the-clock worldwide endeavour and can sometimes seem like a race against time.
In India, one such effort is just underway – reintroducing cheetahs, decades after they became extinct here. Prime Minister Narendra Modi released eight cheetahs at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh. While most of us celebrate our birthdays with friends and cake, this was how the Prime Minister celebrated his. Will this relocation project work? Is it the right approach to conserving these cats?
Before we dive into why these cheetahs are here, let’s look back at how these big cats became extinct in India. Cheetahs are the only large carnivore that got wiped out in India. They were hunted down and used for sport hunting, and their habitat dwindled over time. In 1952, India officially declared cheetahs extinct.
Cheetahs have been in India for centuries. Some accounts go back to the reign of the Mughal emperor Akbar, who was said to have 1,000 cheetahs. They were used for hunting blackbucks and gazelles. Cheetahs became difficult to breed. They were mainly kept in captivity, and their population declined.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the number of cheetahs was only a few hundred. Princes began importing them from Africa. About 200 were brought in between 1918 and 1945. They continued to be hunted for sport. As the British left India, their population died out. In 1952, at the first wildlife board meeting, the government wanted to assign special protection for cheetahs in central India.
In the 1970s, an exchange was proposed with the Shah of Iran – Asiatic cheetahs would be brought in for Asiatic lions. However, given the small number of Asiatic cheetahs in Iran and the genetic similarity between the Iranian and African cheetahs, India looked to Africa instead. In 2010 and 2012, ten sites were surveyed. Among them was the Kuno National Park (KNP) in Madhya Pradesh.
In 2010, the UPA government proposed importing cheetahs from Africa. Their proposal wanted the cheetahs to be released in different sanctuaries in areas where they once called home. In 2012, an application was filed in the Supreme court challenging the proposal. The court later stayed it. The court wanted more information on introducing a foreign species into India. In 2020, the court allowed the government to go ahead with the plans.
While the politics play out, is the plan to reintroduce the cheetahs at KNP the right approach?
VIEW: It’s a sound plan
India is in a relatively good place when it comes to wildlife conservation. Several successful initiatives have managed to preserve the habitats of lions and tigers. They’ve gotten a lot of political and economic support. Much like the cheetah, the tigers and lions are other carnivores that have benefitted from being reintroduced in areas where they went extinct. It benefits the species and helps conserve the ecosystem and adjoining areas.
KNP is an ideal location. It was previously being readied for the reintroduction of Asiatic lions. Now, with cheetahs instead, it can renew the fight to preserve the approximately 750 sq km of protected forests. The current approach is the right one as introducing cheetahs first (weaker compared to lions), and then the lions will help the former get settled and be aware of the terrain. If they’re being hunted, it’s good to know where and how to escape.
There’s the obvious concern about cheetahs roaming into human habitats in the surrounding areas. However, MK Ranjitsinh, who drafted the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, said the risk factor of that happening with cheetahs is low. They don’t normally hunt humans or livestock. However, if they do kill livestock, the government has a compensation plan.
COUNTERVIEW: Several risks involved
While the thinking behind the project is sound, the plan isn’t. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which approved the translocation of the cheetahs, said the relocation poses several risks to the species that are impossible to predict. Relocation can increase the mortality rate among the species. In a new environment, there’s a risk the social order will be upset. This disruption could be harmful.
While there’s some excitement for the cheetahs and conservation efforts, in Madhya Pradesh’s Sheopur district, locals are concerned. Not just of the animals but what might happen to their lands. In the past 15 years, 25 villages were relocated for the park. There’s also a dam coming up on the Kuno River. Even if the cheetahs help increase tourism, some locals feel rich outsiders will swoop in and take advantage of it.
KNP has a large leopard population. Cheetahs usually avoid conflict, and the leopard could kill the cubs. KNP is also not exactly enclosed. That’s the most significant threat here – conflict with humans. If they stray outside the boundaries, things could get out of hand. Here’s where the nature of the habitat comes into play. It’s about finding the right one. While KNP was chosen for having all the right things in place, some aren’t convinced. Success for the government is a 50% survival rate in the short term. That’s optimistic to some.
- India PM reintroduces extinct cheetahs on birthday – BBC
- From extinction to re-introduction: Brief history of Indian cheetah – The Print
- Big cat politics: A look at the legal battle for cheetah relocation in India – India Today
- Why there is hope for the cheetah in India – The Indian Express
- Co-existence, not Fortress Conservation: Here is why India’s cheetah experiment is unique – DownToEarth
- Cheetah relocation: A plan with a history of success and failure – NewsNine
- Explained: Conservationists Think Translocating African Cheetahs To India Is A Bad Idea – Indiaspend
- Cheetahs at KNP: Villagers Fear Land Acquisition, Human-animal Conflict – News18
What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The cheetah relocation approach is right.
b) The cheetah relocation approach is wrong.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
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For the Left:
PM Narendra Modi’s ‘Kartavya’ Path Is Steeled With ‘Maryada’ And ‘Anushasan’
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Vehicles multiplied by 21 times, roads doubled (Delhi) – The annual report released by Delhi Traffic Police revealed that there were over 1.22 crore registered vehicles in all categories in Delhi as of 2021. While the number of motor vehicles increased by 21 times between 1981 and 2021, the road length has only doubled from 15,487 km to 33,198 km during the same period.
Why it matters: There are approximately 371 vehicles per sq km in Delhi. Factors such as the magnitude of vehicle population, defective road design, insufficient road markings and deficiencies in vehicle design lead to road crashes in the city. Delhi reported the highest number of road crash deaths in 2020. The huge population and vehicle density make it difficult to maintain traffic.
New books on state’s history to be reviewed (Manipur) – The Higher and Technical Education Department of Manipur has decided to review books on the state’s history and culture as it claimed that some books have distorted facts that could cause disharmony.
Why it matters: Manipur has set up a 15-member panel to oversee that these books are published with accurate information. The state is home to many ethnic groups such as Kuki, Meitei and Naga. Inaccurate information about the past of these ethnicities will lead to disharmony among them, and therefore before publishing a book, an application must be submitted to the state director of Higher Education and University along with the manuscript.
Centre’s report questions animal care in zoo (Jharkhand) – The Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park in Jharkhand did not make it to the list of the top ten ranking list prepared by a central government agency, raising concerns about the care given to animals lodged in the largest and most visited zoo in the state. Securing the 17th position among 23 medium category zoos in the country in the Management Effective Evaluation (MEE-ZOO) Report, the compromised health of the animals in the zoo was highlighted.
Why it matters: Former state wildlife board member, DS Srivastava said that there is only one veterinarian in the entire zoo with a lack of a veterinary assistant and pathologist. All seven foxes in the zoo died in March of the canine distemper virus (CDV) which is highly contagious. The report prepared by the Central Zoo Authority also pointed out the lack of a disaster management plan, health advisory committee and master plan.
State to bear expenses of foreign travel of MLAs (Rajasthan) – The Rajasthan government has released a new rule wherein MLAs and ex-MLAs can travel to foreign countries with the state bearing the expenses up to ₹1 lakh. However, the politicians will have to seek approval from the Speaker of the Assembly.
Why it matters: MLAs in Rajasthan receive a monthly allowance of ₹2,37,500 including all types of allowances. Due to this, the state’s allowance is higher than many other states including Goa, Haryana, Punjab, Gujarat and others.
Reservations for STs to increase to 10% (Telangana) – Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao announced that the government will enhance reservations for Scheduled Tribes (STs) to 10% from 6% in education and employment from next week. He also added that as a part of the implementation of Girijan Bandhu for landless ST community families, ₹10 lakh each would be provided, on par with the Dalit Bandhu.
Why it matters: The CM stated that he would no longer wait for the Centre’s approval of this change as he has already waited for five years to increase the quota. The Bill for the same is still pending as it violates the 50% upper ceiling on reservations prescribed by the Supreme Court as it will go up to 54%.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
15 – The Assam government is concerned as 15 districts in the state are among the 25 across the country identified as the most vulnerable to climate change.