CCF helps India to reintroduce cheetah

African cheetahs are to be moved to India in an attempt to reintroduce the species that went extinct in that country seven decades ago.

03 February 2020 | Environment

Namibia's Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) will help India to see its first cheetahs return to the wild following seven decades of extinction.

According to a statement by CCF it will be assisting the Wildlife Trust of India, the Wildlife Institute of India and the central and state governments of India with a pilot programme to reintroduce cheetah in India.

This follows a recent ruling the Supreme Court of India that the animals can be moved to the country from Namibia as part of an experiment.

According to the statement India had long been part of the Asiatic cheetah's historic range. The critically endangered subspecies Acinonyx jubatus venaticus was determined to have gone locally extinct in the early 1950s.

“We are excited about the project and the hope it provides for long-term cheetah survival. We are pleased to be assisting the government of India.

Reintroduction will be a long and difficult process, but we accept the challenge,” CCF's founder and executive director, Dr Laurie Marker, said in a statement.

“The potential of bringing the cheetah back into the wild to allow the endangered grasslands to prosper is very worthwhile,” she added.

According to CCF it began consulting with the Indian government in 2009 about reintroduction.

Along with other members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Cat Specialist Group, Veterinary Specialist Group and Reintroduction Specialist Group, Marker travelled to India to attend a series of meetings on using the southern African subspecies for reintroduction.

In 2011, Marker returned to conduct site visits to determine habitat suitability, prey availability and the presence of natural predators.

She made recommendations based on her findings to Indian wildlife authorities.

“On Tuesday, after a series of hearings spanning almost a decade to review the documentation, the Supreme Court of India agreed to allow the cheetah pilot programme to move forward.”

The CCF will consult with the governments of countries that may provide cheetahs and will assist in identifying those to be included in the pilot programme. Any movement of cheetah will be done through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES).

Th CCF will further consult with conservation governing bodies, such as IUCN, and the international cheetah conservation community. Several options are already under assessment.

The CCF will also assist with the design of the pilot programme, and CCF staff will provide technical support throughout its deployment.

“To save cheetahs from extinction, we need to create more permanent places for them on earth. India has areas of grassland and open forest habitat, which are ideal for this species.

“The government has a progressive mindset.

They view cheetah reintroduction as a way to encourage healthy biodiversity. They are looking at the big picture. We think they are setting a marvellous precedent with this reintroduction,” said Marker. “CCF commends the decision of the Supreme Court.”

The CCF is an international non-profit organisation headquartered in Namibia, with a base in Somaliland and operations in the United States, Canada, Australia, Italy, Belgium and the United Kingdom.





ELLANIE SMIT

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