An official in the Indian government says that India plans to reestablish cheetah habitats in grasslands in the central and northwestern regions of the country.
The government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says that the government plans to spend six million dollars moving farmers and shepherds from the area, and preparing the habitats for the reintroduction of the cats. Scientists will import 18 wild cheetahs from Africa because the Asiatic subspecies of cheetah, that once lived in India, no longer exists in the wild and only a few are left in zoos.
The hope is that with conservation efforts in place, the cheetahs will thrive there and triple their numbers in twenty years.
Cheetahs were once abundant in India, but due to hunting there haven’t been any seen in over sixty years. The Indian government hopes that the return of cheetahs will have positive effects on the grassland ecosystem.
The plan isn’t without its detractors, Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India questions the feasibility of the plan based on India’s continued failure to effectively protect the tiger, whose numbers in India are less than half of what they were seven years ago.
There is also concern that the differences between the African subspecies being imported and the Asiatic subspecies that is native to India, might mean the difference between success and failure.
Given my lack of zoological training, I can’t speak to whether the African subspecies of cheetah will be able to thrive in India. But I can say that efforts to maintain wildlife habitats are of the utmost importance, and I am always heartened to hear news of the creation of new habitats or the expansion of a current habitat. The traditional human approach to animals is to hunt them to the brink of extinction, and then confine the remaining dozen or so to a zoo under the guise of “preserving the species”.
Hopefully one day we will see hunting as a distant memory, a day when there is no prestige in a stuffed cheetah head over your mantel, a day when humans voluntarily preserve the habitats of big cats because they recognize the value of the animal and its environment, a day when humans don’t kill animals for food, for clothing, entertainment, or for “sport”.