Home Substantial portion Everything you need to know about the cheetah relocation project, the species | Latest India News

Everything you need to know about the cheetah relocation project, the species | Latest India News


Eight cheetahs will fly from Namibia to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh on Saturday for the reintroduction of the species to India after it was declared extinct in the country seven decades ago in 1952. The big cats were vaccinated, fitted with satellite collars, and are currently isolated at the Namibian center of the Cheetah Conservation Foundation (CCF) in Otjiwarongo. Here’s everything you need to know about the project, the species based on information from CCF, an organization dedicated to saving the cheetah in the wild that has coordinated with Indian authorities and scientists for translocation for 12 years. :

What is the status of the cheetah? What are the most recent census details and where are the populations distributed?

According to the study “Disappearing spots: The global declin of cheetah Acinonyx jubatus and what it mean for conservation” published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), there are fewer than 7,100 cheetahs left in the world. The CCF estimates that the number should be somewhat higher, but still less than 7,500. This explains several micro-populations in the Horn of Africa that were not included in the PNAS study, some of which are currently studied by the CCF.

The cheetah is listed as vulnerable by the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Two subspecies, the Asian cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) and the Northwest African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus hecki) are classified as critically endangered. The historical distribution of the cheetah in Africa covered a substantial part of the continent, but due to the contraction of its range in the last century, the cheetah is only found in 9% of its historical range, of which 77% is found outside protected areas. The species is nearly extinct throughout its Asian range except for a remnant population in Iran of about 20 or fewer individuals. Acinonyx jubatus jubatus is the cheetah of southern and eastern Africa and its range includes the eight countries of Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya.

It is the largest population of wild cheetahs in the world. Smaller and fragmented populations of Acinonyx jubatus soemerengii, the Horn of Africa cheetah, also called the Somali cheetah, are found in parts of Ethiopia and some countries in the Horn of Africa, although that their number has never been officially recorded.

What was the checklist for selecting suitable habitat for translocation to India, type of prey base needed, how many square kilometers per adult needed, etc. ?

Our research shows that in the semi-arid regions of Namibia, cheetahs use a huge home range of around 1500 km2. Home range size requirements in India are likely to be lower due to more productive habitats. It is imperative that potential threats to cheetahs at release sites are addressed or plans are in place to mitigate them. A habitat suitability survey should be conducted at each site to ensure that there is sufficient vegetation to support viable prey populations to support introduced cheetahs over the long term. Such studies have been conducted at potential release sites. The reintroduced population must be protected from anthropogenic threats and the potential impact of unusually high competition between cheetahs and other predators must be managed. Due to the cheetah’s large home ranges and a tendency to occur at low densities, release sites must be part of a larger suitable landscape or metapopulation management is required.

How and when did African and Asian cheetahs diversify into distinct subspecies?

Online research tells me that cheetahs in Southeast Africa and Asia diverged from each other 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. The divergence time between A. j. venaticus and Aj jubatus was estimated 4,700 to 67,400 years ago. The extent of the separation of Aj venaticus from the African subspecies was unclear. mtDNA data placed the separation between Aj jubatus and A. j. venaticus slightly more recent than that of Aj jubatus and Aj soemerengii. Microsatellite data suggest that the divergence with Aj soemmerengii is the most recent event. It is important to keep in mind that the divergence values ​​between Aj venaticus and the other subspecies might have been stochastically increased due to a recent postulated bottleneck in Aj venaticus. O’Brien et al (2017) estimate a divergence time between Aj venaticus and Aj jubatus around 6500 years ago.

In what type of climate do African cheetahs survive and would they be able to adapt to conditions in India?

Cheetahs are very adaptable and had a wide distribution until 100 years ago, especially in parts of India. They will be able to survive most climatic conditions in India. In some parts of Africa, where cheetahs are found, temperatures can vary from very very hot during the day to cold at night. Cheetahs can adapt to seasonal changes. They also face extreme rainfall and wet seasons in Africa, much like in India. For hunting, cheetahs do well in open savannas and grasslands and can also be found in areas with moderate woody ground cover. Cheetahs also benefit from tall grass or bushy areas that allow them to remain undetected while stalking their prey. Habitat at release sites in India is an important consideration, and CCF believes the cheetah will do very well in Indian landscapes.

What were the factors to consider for the success of the translocation and individual survival?

Assessing the success of cheetah translocations is complicated. The results of many incidents are not published and those that are published potentially suffer from positive publication bias. Successes are more likely to be published than failures. Success is generally based on reproductive output, but programs often use different definitions of this term. A meta-analysis of documented cheetah translocations determined that at least 727 cheetahs were translocated to 64 sites in southern Africa between 1965 and 2010. Six of the 64 release sites were considered successful based on natural recruitment (births ) exceeding adult mortality three years after introductions. began.

In many other projects, the number of cheetahs released was low and no long-term monitoring was carried out. If such long-term monitoring had been implemented and documented, other sites could have been considered successful. The main factor associated with breeding success in a carnivore translocation program is the suitability of the release site for the target species and, in the case of outdoor releases, the suitability of the surrounding area. Important characteristics of the release site include habitat and prey availability, potential for intra- and interspecific competition, and the ability of the animal to leave the site.

Have transfers already been made in Africa or to other continents?

In Namibia, CCF began translocation research in the early 1990s. CCF teams have translocated over 100 Namibian cheetahs to help support populations in other parts of Namibia and in South Africa. His rehabilitation research began in 2005 and since then he has rehabilitated over 65 orphaned cheetahs and assessed and released over 650 wild cheetahs trapped in the Namibian landscape.

CCF research paved the way for India. The first translocated cheetahs in Namibia were released into fenced and unfenced national protected areas in the 1960s and 1970s in South Africa, to reintroduce or reinforce existing populations. Legislation passed in South Africa in the 1960s returned the right to use wildlife to landowners, paving the way for the development of private reserves. In 1991, landowners in South Africa began supplying private reserves with cheetahs for tourism, and translocations increased between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s. To mitigate conflict, a compensation-relocation program was conducted in South Africa between 2000 and 2006. Cheetahs perceived as livestock predators were captured by landowners and moved to private reserves and national parks. But vacant territories encourage the immigration of new individuals, which can increase human-wildlife conflicts. Predator removal is counterproductive to encouraging landowners to co-exist with large carnivores, and the impact of repeated removals on wild populations has been the main reason for the suspension of this program in South Africa.

What is the translocation protocol?

In 2010, CCF’s Laurie Marker wrote a document that outlines the logistical steps to bring a small group of male and female cheetahs from southern Africa or another range state along with wild cheetahs to begin the process. of introduction. The animals would first be placed in large fenced areas to adjust to their new environment. They would be fitted with satellite collars to allow scientists to track their movements and monitor their health. After a short stay, they would be released into a larger enclosure, to familiarize themselves with their new environment, where they would stay for a month or more before being released into the National Park. Their movements would be monitored by research teams, and if a cheetah strayed too far, the animal would be brought back to the park. This document has been developed over the years, and now it has been absorbed into the 310-page Action Plan for Cheetah Introduction in India.

What role does the CCF play in the project?

The CCF is assisting the Supreme Court of India Appointed Committee of Conservation Experts to introduce the African cheetah to the Indian landscape by participating in site visits, conducting assessments, training field officers and identifying appropriate cheetahs for the project. It is also helping the Namibian government prepare the Namibian cheetahs that will make the transcontinental journey. Members of the CCF introduction team will accompany the cheetahs in India from the CCF center in Otjiwarongo, Namibia to Kuno National Park.