Cheetah reintroduction plan in India

September 21st, 2009 | by Nick |

A Mughal painting showing cheetahs hunting leopards

A Mughal painting showing cheetahs hunting leopards

An international meeting in India of cheetah experts and conservationists has agreed that the case for the reintroduction of the cheetah isĀ  strong.

The plan, backed by the Indian government, is to bring the cheetah back to India and make it, as many wildlife experts say, the “flagship species” of the country’s grasslands, which today lack a prominent species on which to base conservation.

Seven sites in the four states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh have been shortlisted as potential homes for the cheetah. They will now be surveyed to ascertain the state of the habitat, the number of prey and prospects of man-animal conflicts. India would then import the animals from Africa, as the numbers of the Asiatic cheetah still surviving in Iran have fallen to less than 100. Genetic studies suggest that the similarities between the Iranian and African cheetah is “very close”.

Conservationists are split on the plan. Some say are concerned that if the the cheetah is brough back too quickly, they will end up being housed in semi-captive conditions in huge, secured open air zoos, but not free in the wild. They say without restoring habitat and prey base and the chances of a man-animal conflict, viable cheetah populations cannot be established. MK Ranjitsinh, chairman of the Wildlife Trust of India, says the plan is to release the cheetahs in the wild in designated open areas, after studying them thoroughly.

Reintroducing cheetahs in India has symbolic value. The first cheetahs to be bred in captivity were in India during Mughal rule. See also history of Cheetahs in India.

Books about Indian cheetahs

There are a couple of interesting histories on Indian cheetahs:

The Cheetah in India

This book presents a pictorial history of the cheetah in India from the pre-historic period to the present. It provides a comprehensive account of the cheetah in captivity and its use by Indian royalty as an aid to hunting. Divyabhanusinh examines anew the process of the Indian cheetah’s decline in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, charting its path to extinction and analysing the causes of its disappearance. The epilogue provides a complete update, including detailed findings on the evolution of cheetahs from Africa and Asia. It also gives fresh evidence about the sadly declining numbers of cheetahs in Iran, and their existence in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The author mines a wide range of sources–from prehistoric cave paintings, Sanskrit, classical Greek and Roman literature to Mughal miniature paintings, rare photographs, and interviews. This third edition contains an updated preface on the current scenario for cheetahs in Asia. More here
Also worth reading though I’m not sure if it’s available is The End of a Trail: The Cheetah in India
This is a study of the cheetah, now extinct in India, through the ages of Indian history. The product of a decade of extensive research, this is the only work which traces the history and ecology of an animal species from the pre-historic period to recent times. Using a range of sources, from prehistoric cave paintings to oral testimony, it provides a comprehensive account of the animal’s interaction with man through the ages, charting its path to extinction and exploring the possibility of its reintroduction in India.
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