New Delhi: After bringing in eight cheetahs from Namibia, the Central government has set up a taskforce to monitor introduction the big cats in Kuno National Park, Madhya Pradesh, and other suitable designated areas and explore tourism avenues.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) would facilitate the working of cheetah task force and render all necessary help. The taskforce shall be in-force for a period of two years. This task force may appoint a subcommittee to regularly visit the cheetah introduction area as and when decided by them.
Cheetah restoration is part of a prototype or model for restoration of original cheetah habitats and their biodiversity. This will help to stem the degradation and rapid loss of biodiversity. Bringing back a top predator restores historic evolutionary balance resulting in cascading effects on various levels of the eco-system.
Bringing the cheetah back is expected to have important conservation ramifications. The cheetah has been the evolutionary natural selection force that has shaped the adaptation of high speeds in Indian antelopes and gazelles. By restoring cheetah, we would also be able to save not only its prey base comprising certain threatened species, but also other endangered species of the grasslands / open forest eco-systems, some of which are on the brink of extinction.
Objective of the taskforce
The taskforce been constituted by the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) to review, progress and monitor the health status of cheetah, upkeep of the quarantine & soft release enclosures, protection status of entire area, adherence to the defined protocols by forest & veterinary officials and advice on cheetah introduction in India to the Madhya Pradesh forest department and NTCA on status of cheetah with respect to overall health, behaviour and their upkeep.
The taskforce will also monitor hunting skills and adaptation of cheetahs to the habitat of Kuno National Park. The cheetahs are to be released from the quarantine enclosures and then to grass land and further in the open forest areas.
The panel will also monitor behavioural pattern of the cheetah in the forest and explore the scope for eco-tourism in the areas where the big cats are introduced and frame regulations in this regard. It will also suggest and advice on development of tourism infrastructure in the fringe areas of Kuno National Park and other protected areas.
The panel members will also regularly interact with cheetah mitras and local communities for their awareness raising and also involvement in protection of cheetahs in particular & area in general.
Members of the taskforce
Principal secretaries of forest, tourism, principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) and head of forest force, PCCF (wildlife) and chief wildlife warden of Madhya Pradesh government, Alok Kumar, retired PCCF (wildlife), MP, Amit Mallick, inspector general, NTCA, New Delhi, Vishnu Priya, scientist, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, Abhilash Khandekar, member MP SBWL, Bhopal and Subhoranjan Sen, APCCF- wildlife – member convener have been included in the task force.