TN conservationists express reservationover cheetah translocation

C.S. Kotteswaran

CHENNAI: The much-delayed cheetah translocation project is likely to gain shape by the end of this year. However, wildlife conservationists are divided over the project that is pending for more than a decade


Source: DT Nxt


The arrival of the cheetah from Africa is now a much-discussed subject among authorities at the Wildlife life Institute of India, Dehradun and National Tiger Conservation Authority Delhi. But, there are conservationists and animal behaviourists who have expressed reservations over the Rs 14 crore project that promises the translocation of 6 to 8 cheetahs in a phased manner.


Last year, the Supreme Court allowed the Centre to introduce the African cheetah to a suitable habitat in India, including Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh, almost 10 years after the plan was mooted by former environment minister Jairam Ramesh.


“In general, as far as possible, we should not play God,” wildlife biologist Dr Ravi Chellam, CEO of Metastring Foundation and member of Biodiversity Collaborative, said. “It is true that the grasslands are a very neglected part of the Indian landscape. But India already has resident species present in grasslands that are charismatic enough to do the same job. We have a wolf, caracal, great Indian bustard, Bengal orican, chinkara. It is not as if we do not have enough or more species which can execute that representation,” Chellam, who studied the ecological behaviours of lions in Gir sanctuary, told DT Next.


“Natural extinction should be allowed to proceed as the reintroduction of cheetah will not serve a conservative role as other carnivores are already occupying the habitat. Further, the cheetahs brought from Africa will face threat from other big cats and there should be continuous monitoring of the project,” opined conservation scientist A Kumaraguru of Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Tiruchy.


According to sources in the Tamil Nadu Forest Department, only pockets of central India can sustain the cheetah population if reintroduced. The grasslands in Tamil Nadu are adversely aected or located in higher altitudes occupied by tigers and leopards. Introducing the carnivore will help states boost wildlife tourism and the focus should be more on protecting grasslands and water bodies where the cheetahs are introduced, sources said, dismissing the immediate possibilities of introducing cheetahs in south India.


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