Conserving cheetahs will also mean dealing with conflict with people(AFP)
Conserving cheetahs will also mean dealing with conflict with people(AFP)

Introduce the cheetah, with caution and guidelines | Opinion

The plan to bring the cheetah to India should have a minimum requirement of setting up a grassland policy
By Neha Sinha
UPDATED ON FEB 03, 2020 10:32 PM IST

In 2013, the Supreme Court (SC) delivered a judgment on lions in India. The judgment directed that the wild lion population confined to Gir in Gujarat should be given a second habitat in Madhya Pradesh within six months. This was to ensure the population’s survival in the case of catastrophic events. The same judgment also said a separate proposal to “reintroduce” cheetahs to India should not go ahead as cheetahs from Africa, available for the reintroduction, were not the same as the Asiatic cheetah, which became locally extinct in India after Independence. The 2013 judgment is considered a landmark because it laid out several progressive tenets, including the “species-best-interest standard”—stressing that policy should implement what is best for a wild species rather than what was best for people.

Seven years later, the SC, in a January order, has said that cheetahs from Africa can be brought into India, an active move to associate cheetahs with India once again. This is interesting on two counts. First, the January judgment frames the introduction of the African cheetah as an “experimental basis in carefully chosen habitat”. This is new for conservation; an experiment which works towards de-extinction of a species gone for decades, rather than gradually setting up tones for “natural progression”. Second, the cheetah order comes in the shadow of the fact that the 2013 order on lions was never followed.

The 2013 judgment hinged on the alien-ness of the African cheetah, as the subspecies is different from the Asiatic one. The Asiatic cheetah is now found only in Iran, which has too few cheetahs to send any to India. The new judgement stresses that bringing African cheetahs will not be a “reintroduction”, but an introduction. This is a bringing forth rather than a bringing back; an act that seeks to address extinction through a next-best substitute. The cheetah is considered part of Indian culture; the word chitra standing for variegated patterns. It is also the first notably Indian animal that went extinct in recent memory (other animals that went extinct from India were the pink-headed duck and Sumatran rhino, but they were not as well-known as cheetahs.) Thus, the cheetah inhabits a cultural box which is outside of purely scientific conservation.

The question now is: What should be the species best-interest standard for cheetahs? Any move to address extinction is complex, and it becomes even more layered when it comes to large carnivores.

The cheetah should not be brought to India if certain issues are not addressed. Equally, bringing the cheetah to India can address problems typical to carnivore conservation and neglected habitat. The question of habitat is important as we have shown a historical skew towards protecting lush green forests. The cheetah is a creature of drier, more neglected spaces — grasslands and thorn forest. Not looking particularly green nor with dense canopy cover, both grasslands and thorn forest have been burnt, cleared, converted into industrial zones or decreed as wasted areas. Bringing the cheetah to India should have a minimum requirement of setting up a grassland policy. Sites in discussion for cheetah colonisation include Nauradehi sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh or the Shahgarh landscape near Jaisalmer; but we shouldn’t consider cheetah introduction as a tightly-managed “experiment” only in these sites.

Instead, a new grassland policy should address issues with grasslands sites specifically, and thorn forest more broadly. Grasslands need grazing policies and protection against conversion; and thorn forests need protection from being mined or sold.

Both grasslands and thorn forests are legitimate, living ecosystems with iconic species such as the Great Indian Bustard, caracal and the Indian wolf but the fact that these species are declining is because their habitat is not valued.

Conserving cheetahs will also mean dealing with conflict with people outside and in protected areas. While the relatively small cheetah is unlikely to have negative encounters with people, it may eat livestock. The model of co-existence with a carnivore constantly needs innovation and fine tuning. Studies show that where authorities are responsive in compensating kills or damage, there is less conflict with carnivores. Creating effective and quick conflict-resolution models should benefit the Indian wolf which shares a similar habitat. We also need to strengthen responses to invasive threats like domestic dogs forming packs and attacking wildlife, particularly outside protected areas.

Some would say India should focus on the species it has; especially the ones that are in neglected areas like grasslands. Yet, if we admit that conservation is also cultural, bringing cheetahs to India — with a grassland policy and innovation in place — may be the shot of conservation optimism that grasslands and ‘degraded’ forests need. What we don’t need is patriotism through animals; but what we still do need are new ways of seeing places that don’t look impressive to us.

Neha Sinha is with the Bombay Natural History Society

The views expressed are personal

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Approximately half of the countries use population for delimitation, while another third use registered voters. Nowhere is it based on area and for good reasons (HTPHOTO)
Approximately half of the countries use population for delimitation, while another third use registered voters. Nowhere is it based on area and for good reasons (HTPHOTO)

J&K delimitation: Go by the population rule

By Haseeb Drabu
PUBLISHED ON MAR 01, 2021 06:39 PM IST
Having already decided on the number of electors as well as the number of elected, the only part of delimitation that has been left to the Commission is the electoral cartography — the redrawing of boundaries and enclosing people within the constituency framework. Notwithstanding these debilitating infirmities in the context of J&K, the redrawing of the constituencies is an extraordinarily complex and highly contentious exercise. It can potentially alter the electoral demographic balance.
Close
Representational image. (AFP)
Representational image. (AFP)

Congress needs to worry more about rebels than opponents in Puducherry

By Abhishek Jha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 22, 2021 06:32 PM IST
The only time the Congress has lost Puducherry, it has been because of a rebel. The Congress and DMK together have won over 50% seats in every assembly elections in Puducherry since 1980, except in 2011
Close
At a January meeting to review projects, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed displeasure at the process-driven bureaucracy (ANI)
At a January meeting to review projects, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed displeasure at the process-driven bureaucracy (ANI)

Behind PM Modi’s stinging critique of the IAS, a Jan meeting holds the clue

By Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 17, 2021 09:35 AM IST
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given bureaucrats an earful at a January meeting of the country's top officials and underlined the price that India paid for their slow pace.
Close
PM Narendra Modi was emotional while giving a farewell to Ghulam Nabi Azad from Rajya Sabha.
PM Narendra Modi was emotional while giving a farewell to Ghulam Nabi Azad from Rajya Sabha.

Salute to Ghulam Nabi Azad underlined PM Modi’s personal ties with rivals

By Saubhadra Chatterji | Edited by Abhinav Sahay, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2021 03:37 PM IST
  • Leaders from the Congress and other Opposition parties have many stories to show that the Prime Minister has maintained personal rapport with leaders cutting across political boundaries.
Close
Officials carry out search and rescue operation at Tapovan Tunnel, after a glacier broke off in Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district causing a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river on Sunday. (File photo)
Officials carry out search and rescue operation at Tapovan Tunnel, after a glacier broke off in Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district causing a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river on Sunday. (File photo)

Not just climate change, Chamoli disaster was human-induced

UPDATED ON FEB 08, 2021 12:15 PM IST
Stone quarrying, blasting of mountains and digging of tunnels in the base of the mountain system for two dams on Rishi Ganga and Dhauli Ganga rivers played havoc with the local ecology
Close
In this file photo, a man hangs on to pole holding a Sikh religious flag along with a farm union flag at the historic Red Fort monument during a farmers protest against new farm laws in New Delhi(AP)
In this file photo, a man hangs on to pole holding a Sikh religious flag along with a farm union flag at the historic Red Fort monument during a farmers protest against new farm laws in New Delhi(AP)

Perception is the truth in information warfare over farm laws

By Shishir Gupta, New Delhi, Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON FEB 04, 2021 01:42 PM IST
  • The Chinese were among the first to recognise the role of information warfare to weaken the adversary from within
Close
Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman. (Ajay Aggarwal /HT PHOTO)
Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman. (Ajay Aggarwal /HT PHOTO)

A new confidence about India reflects in a bold Budget 2021

By Monika Halan
UPDATED ON FEB 01, 2021 09:59 PM IST
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has chosen to spend on generating future income using the higher capital spending, which has gone up by 35.4% over the previous year
Close
Shaibal Gupta also made a pioneering contribution in explaining the historical roots and the evolution of Bihar’s politics, which have today become the staple of everyday political analysis. (FACEBOOK)
Shaibal Gupta also made a pioneering contribution in explaining the historical roots and the evolution of Bihar’s politics, which have today become the staple of everyday political analysis. (FACEBOOK)

The life and times of a Patna intellectual

UPDATED ON JAN 31, 2021 06:20 AM IST
Shaibal Gupta was rooted and cosmopolitan; idealistic and pragmatic; and an insider and outsider — all at the same time. Patna’s public life will not the same without him.
Close
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar's address on India-China ties is a reminder to Beijing that the bilateral relationship between the two Asian powers is not a one-way street.(AP/File)
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar's address on India-China ties is a reminder to Beijing that the bilateral relationship between the two Asian powers is not a one-way street.(AP/File)

Jaishankar yellow-cards China for violating pacts, spells out the India way

By Shishir Gupta, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 29, 2021 03:02 PM IST
  • S Jaishankar’s speech on India-China ties signals India’s determination to continue to stand up to Xi Jinping’s expansionist plans for Asia as an equal and makes it clear that nothing that Beijing does against India will be overlooked, or allowed to go unpunished.
Close
Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of China's Alibaba Group, in Chiba, Japan, June 18, 2015 (REUTERS)
Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of China's Alibaba Group, in Chiba, Japan, June 18, 2015 (REUTERS)

Jack Ma story: China’s deep strategic ambition

By Manoj Kewalramani
UPDATED ON JAN 29, 2021 04:50 AM IST
This statist vision of the future is very different from the government creating a level-playing field for private capital to compete and the market to do its job. It is about the State guiding capital and private entities towards what it believes are national strategic priorities, rather than allowing them to simply focus on generating greater revenue.
Close
A Nihang Sikh aboard a horse inside Red Fort on Tuesday.(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
A Nihang Sikh aboard a horse inside Red Fort on Tuesday.(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

Republic Day raid was pre-meditated, planned well in advance

UPDATED ON JAN 28, 2021 02:17 PM IST
With Delhi Police under firm orders not to open fire, the armed Nihang Sikhs provided the cover for the tractors to roll towards Red Fort.
Close
A video of an unruly tractor moving waywardly towards police personnel at ITO emerged on Tuesday as farmers protesting against farm laws deviated from their route and moved inside the Capital.
A video of an unruly tractor moving waywardly towards police personnel at ITO emerged on Tuesday as farmers protesting against farm laws deviated from their route and moved inside the Capital.

How unruly farmers tried to embarrass India on Republic Day

UPDATED ON JAN 27, 2021 02:09 PM IST
The tractor-borne unruly farmers were minutes away from India Gate when they were blocked by New Delhi Range police.
Close
How do we address this cyclical pattern of hailing and rubbishing financiers? It is time for an honest review of the entire issue (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
How do we address this cyclical pattern of hailing and rubbishing financiers? It is time for an honest review of the entire issue (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The policy landscape around digital and physical micro-lending

By Amol Agrawal
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2021 06:08 AM IST
In 1870s, a similar backlash emerged in Poona and Ahmednagar districts of the Bombay presidency. The agriculture boom in the early 1860s led farmers to take loans from moneylenders
Close
A tiny tax on stock market transactions can help fund India’s vaccination drive without burning a hole in the wallets of stock market investors and give the government headroom for other expenditure to help save lives (AFP)
A tiny tax on stock market transactions can help fund India’s vaccination drive without burning a hole in the wallets of stock market investors and give the government headroom for other expenditure to help save lives (AFP)

Vaccinating all Indians, for free

By Praveen Chakravarty
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2021 06:08 AM IST
The markets are at an all-time high. Impose a Covid-19 surcharge on transactions and use it for vaccination
Close
Why is it that, despite the government displaying its willingness to take a step back, the matter was not resolved? (PTI)
Why is it that, despite the government displaying its willingness to take a step back, the matter was not resolved? (PTI)

Farm protests: The costs of a prolonged standoff

By Shashi Shekhar
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2021 06:08 AM IST
The government has extended an olive branch. The farmers must respect this and reciprocate. The tone set on Saturday should pave the way for a permanent solution.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP