Cheetah Conservation Fund to play a pivotal role in reintroducing the extinct cheetah in India

The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) will assist the Wildlife Trust of India, the Wildlife Institute of India, and the Indian government with a pilot programme to reintroduce cheetah in the Asian nation, an official said Wednesday.

While India had long been part of the Asiatic cheetah’s historic range, the critically endangered sub-species, ‘Acinonyx jubatus venaticus’, was determined to have gone locally extinct in the early 1950’s.

“We are excited about the programme and the hope it provides for long-term cheetah survival. We are pleased to be assisting India,” Dr. Laurie Marker, CCF’s Founder and Executive Director said in response to questions from the Economist.

“The potential of bringing the cheetah back into the wild to allow the endangered grasslands to prosper is very worthwhile,” she added.

According to Marker, reintroduction will be a long and difficult process, but Namibia has accepted the challenge, as CCF currently estimates that Namibia’s wild cheetah population is around 1500 adults and adolescents.

The CCF said that Marker will travel to India next month to meet with the government and local wildlife NGOs involved in this project, now that the Supreme Court has given its assent on Tuesday to determine the next steps.

“After a series of hearings spanning almost a decade to review the documentation, the Supreme Court of India agreed to allow the cheetah pilot programme to move forward,” she added

According to the Fund, CCF will consult with governments from countries that may provide cheetahs and will assist in identifying those to be included the pilot programme.

“Any movement of cheetah will be done through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES). CCF will consult with conservation governing bodies, such as IUCN, and the international cheetah conservation community. Several options are already under assessment. CCF will also assist with the design of the pilot programme, and CCF staff will provide technical support throughout its deployment,” CCF added.

“To save cheetahs from extinction, we need to create more permanent places for them on Earth. India has areas of grassland and open forest habitat, which is ideal for this species,” said Marker, while she commended the decision of the Supreme Court”.

CCF and Dr. Marker began consulting with the Indian government in 2009 about reintroduction.

Along with other members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Cat Specialist Group, Veterinary Specialist Group and Reintroduction Specialist Group, Dr. Marker traveled to India to attend a series of meetings on the utilisation of the southern African subspecies, Acinonyx jubatus jubatus, for reintroduction.

In 2011, Dr. Marker returned to conduct site visits to determine habitat suitability, prey base and the presence of natural predators. She delivered recommendations based on her findings to Indian wildlife authorities.

CCF is an international non-profit organization headquartered in Namibia, with a base in Somaliland and operations in the United States, Canada, Australia, Italy, Belgium, and the United Kingdom, while it has fundraising partner organisations in Germany, the Netherlands and Kenya.

Source: Namibia Economist