International Society For Endangered Cats

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Asian Lions & Cheetahs Reintroduced In The Same Place

Sometimes you just have to shake your head (or bang in on the table) about the way things work in the world.

A couple of years ago, the government of India announced an ambitious plan to reintroduce cheetahs to India. Cheetahs there had been been hunted to extinction centuries ago, and tiger numbers in that country continue to plummet. The plan sharply divided the wild cat conservation community, but is apparently going ahead. See our previous posts on the subject here and here.

Over the course of the reintroduction, or translocation as the plan should be called, 60 cheetahs will be moved from Africa to three sites in India.

One of the sites choosen is the Kuno Palpur wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Predesh.  This also the site that the government has chosen for the translocation of Asiatic lions from Gujurat.  The sanctuary already contains tigers and leopards.

In Africa, lions and leopards are direct threats to the cheetah population, killing and eating cubs whenever they find them. Tigers can now be added to the list of predators on cheetahs.

The idea of moving cheetahs to India was bad enough in the first place, a politically motivated plan with more thought towards publicity than cheetah survival. Now they choose to move them into an area where they’re putting lions, snuggling them in next to the existing tigers and leopards.

India also has six small cat species – caracal, jungle cat, Asian wildcat, leopard cat, clouded leopard and rusty-spotted cat – the latter two very endangered. Has anyone thought about looking after the conservation of the cats they’ve already got, before adding the already endangered cheetah to the mix?

You can read more on the Indian cheetah reintroduction here. Let us know what you think of the whole idea.

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Cheetah Reintroduction or Sacrifice?

The government of India, or at least the Minister of Environment, has recently announced plans to bring 18 cheetahs from Africa to reintroduce this big cat to its former range. While the geographic range of the Asiatic cheetah did span across these areas of India in the past, trophy hunters and poachers drove the felines to extinction there 60 years ago.

The official line is that bringing the cheetah back would restore the grasslands that, for years, have been cut down by villagers who use the grass to feed livestock.  Over time, the cheetahs’ presence is supposed to stabilize other endangered species populations living in the disturbed grasslands.

Small, poverty-stricken villages of cattle farmers and shepherds currently live in the three proposed areas, and would be forced to leave their homes and relocate to other parts of the country. The government says they plan to spend $6 million relocating the people and preparing the proposed cheetah habitat areas.

As reintroduction proposals go, this is the most ludicrous suggestion I’ve ever come across.

India has traditionally had the world’s largest tiger population. Asian demand for tiger parts has fueled rampant tiger poaching that has caused a decline in the Bengal tiger population. In only the last seven years, the tigers have decreased by 60%, leaving India with only about 1,400 today.

Despite extensive conservation campaigns and numerous efforts to save India’s tigers, they continue to disappear. Poachers are largely to blame, but many tigers are also killed in retaliation when they kill humans and livestock.  Predators all over the world fall victim to retaliatory killing when livestock predation occurs, and cheetahs are no exception.

In India and Nepal, the general public’s attitude regarding animals revolves around the idea that if people can barely survive there, why should animals be given a chance?  When people are told to leave their homes because cheetahs are being reintroduced into the area, it will undoubtedly fuel more hatred for the animals.

As has been proven many times, the only way for any reintroduction program to succeed is to educate the locals and inspire them to want to protect the animals and their habitat.

There is also concern about introducing an African-adapted species that will have been bred in captivity. What are the chances these cats will know how to survive in the wild?

There are not enough African cheetahs left to play around with their future. Their population is on a rapid decline, and putting 18 of these endangered cats into the Indian grasslands is the same as lining them up on the highway. Their chances of survival would be about the same.

Pat Bumstead

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The Bushwarriors blog recently launched a poll titled “Should Cheetahs Be Reintroduced to India?” Fifty-five percent of respondents said no, while 39% felt it was a good idea. Five percent fell into the Other category, and one of those comments neatly sums up the entire issue:

“One’s house should be in order before one orders more furniture.”

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