Not rejected any of the 8 cheetahs to be translocated from Namibia, says Centre
India is yet to sign an agreement with South Africa to translocate 12 cheetahs. India and Namibia signed an agreement to translocate cheetahs on July 20. The agreement will remain in force for five years and renewed subsequently
India has not rejected any of the eight cheetahs to be translocated from Namibia, the environment ministry said on Saturday, refuting reports that the country has refused to accept three cheetahs from the African nation because they were bred in captivity.
The three cheetahs were born in the wild but were reared in captivity for some time, ministry officials involved with the translocation project said.
“We want to clarify that India did not reject any of the eight identified African cheetahs. The three cheetahs are not captive-bred. They are wild-caught cheetahs, which were reared or kept in enclosed space for some time,” said a National Tiger Conservation Authority official who did not wish to be named. “The question of rejection doesn’t arise because they are very important from the perspective of conservation breeding.”
India has in the past successfully reintroduced a tiger in the wild after being kept in captivity, he said. The tiger was caught in Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh several years ago and was subsequently reintroduced in Panna Tiger Reserve successfully, he added.
“Re-wilding is not a concern because wild-caught cheetahs continue to have the instinct to hunt,” the official said.
Captive or conservation breeding programs enable zoos to exhibit many species of animals without capturing new individuals from the wild, according to an article in Science Direct. These programmes breed endangered species in zoos and other research facilities to revive their populations and sometimes to release them in the wild.
The delay in bringing the cheetahs to India is logistical and not related to concerns with the identified big cats, another official said. “The logistics are still being worked on. Both Indian and Namibian authorities are trying to get the cheetahs to travel as early as possible, but we cannot give a date at the moment. It may be sometime next month,” a Namibian official said, declining to be named. “The three cheetahs in question were all born in the wild. So, the question of being captive-bred does not arise.”
Authorities and wildlife experts in India and Namibia are trying to work out a solution to a logistical challenge in transporting eight cheetahs from Namibia by air, HT reported on August 20. The animals are likely to be transported in a cargo airline under frequent monitoring by veterinarians and animal keepers to ensure they arrive safely in India after the 10-hour flight, environment ministry officials had said.
India is yet to sign an agreement with South Africa to translocate 12 cheetahs. India and Namibia signed an agreement to translocate cheetahs on July 20. The agreement will remain in force for five years and renewed subsequently.
Cheetahs used to thrive across the central Indian landscape, but disappeared in the late 1940s due to large-scale hunting for sport and habitat loss. The cheetahs that are arriving are not Asiatic but African cheetahs, so India will be introducing a genetic subspecies and not the Asiatic cheetahs that went extinct, experts have said.
Some wildlife biologists have also raised concerns that the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh was selected for lions, but the government now plans for dispersal of the Asiatic lions within Gujarat, the only state where they are found.
“Translocation of wild animals especially large predators is a challenging process in itself. When captive-bred predators have to be released into the wild, a whole host of additional challenges emerge. The captive-bred animals need to possess the entire set of predation skills including how to open a prey animal once it has been captured and killed. How to defend their kill from other predators and scavengers which maybe larger in size or live in large groups? The captive animals should retain their fear for humans and not be imprinted,” said Ravi Chellam, CEO, Metastring Foundation & Coordinator, Biodiversity Collaborative.