Wild cheetahs to prowl in India for first time in 70 years

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Panthers are set to race the plains India For the first time since the world’s fastest land animal became extinct in the South Asian country 70 years ago, officials said Wednesday.

African leopards will be transported from Namibia India’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change said in a statement the Kono Wildlife Sanctuary, a national park in the central state of Madhya Pradesh after signing an agreement with the South African country. statement.

Returning the cheetah to India would have “important implications for conservation,” the statement said, adding that it would help stem the “rapid loss of biodiversity”.

She added that the creatures “do not pose a threat to humans and usually do not attack large livestock,” and that “the resurrection of a large predator restores historical evolutionary balance.”

The environment ministry said the project’s goal is to restore leopard numbers within the species’ historical range in India, with 50 cheetahs placed in different parks over the next five years. previous statement.

However, Sanjay Gopi, an India-based conservation biologist who focuses on wild big cats, said reintroducing leopards would be more difficult than previous big cat initiatives.

He said the African cheetah is a different subspecies than the Asiatic cheetah native to India, he told NBC News in a phone interview Thursday. He added that the predators are “habit specialists” who require large grasslands of up to 128,000 acres to survive.

“I don’t think India has enough large continuous patches of grassland scrub habitat to support the species anymore,” he said.

Cheetahs were kept as household pets, and were often chained in India in the 1930s.Keystone-France / via Getty Images

Factors such as hunting, habitat destruction and loss of prey are driving the Indian wildcat to extinction by the early 1950s, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Cat Specialist Group.

When leopards – which can reach speeds of up to 75 miles per hour – reach India, they will rejoin the lineup of several species of the country’s wild cats, including the leopard and leopard.

The project will be supervised by the National Tiger Protection Authority of India which has already Reintroduced population of tigers in the country.

Their new home in the Kono Wildlife Sanctuary is approximately 185,000 acres and is free of human settlement. The environment ministry statement said it could currently harbor 21 cheetahs in total.

It is considered an endangered species worldwide, and there are Less than 7000 cheetahs They are estimated to be left in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which says Namibia has the largest population in the world.

Keen to promote their arrival, a new mantra called “Chintu Cheetah” has been created by the state of Madhya Pradesh.

But her work may be interrupted.

“India is used to other big cats, who live in woodland or woodland habitats, but not to leopards that roam in large fields and open grassland habitats,” said Gopi, a conservation biologist.

He also warned that smaller livestock, such as sheep and goats, could become a leopard’s lunch.

“It will be interesting to see how societies accept the conflict of new species,” he said.

While he agreed that predators such as leopards can play an important role in the environment, Gopi said the issue of habitat loss is more pressing for India’s conservation efforts.

Several grassland species in India, including the critically endangered Indian Great Houbara, are currently at risk of extinction due to habitat loss, according to the World Wildlife Foundation.

Joby said, “A bird in one hand equals two in the bush.” “When we can’t even salvage what we already have, I’m very skeptical whether we’ll be able to reintroduce a new species.”

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