Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Asiatic Lions in Kuno National Park


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Asiatic Cheetah

Mains level : Species reintroduction and related issues

Experts have argued that the introduction of African cheetahs to Kuno National Park could endanger the Asiatic lion which has also been identified for re-introduction.

Do you know?

Cheetahs had a more extensive distribution than lions — there are no records of lions occurring south of the Narmada River, but Asiatic cheetahs roamed most of India until they were hunted to extinction by 1947.

About Asiatic Cheetah

  • Cheetah, the world’s fastest land animal was declared extinct in India in 1952.
  • The Asiatic cheetah is classified as a “critically endangered” species by the IUCN Red List, and is believed to survive only in Iran.
  • It was expected to be re-introduced into the country after the Supreme Court lifted curbs for its re-introduction.
  • From 400 in the 1990s, their numbers are estimated to have reached to 50-70 today, because of poaching, hunting of their main prey (gazelles) and encroachment on their habitat.

Why reintroduce Cheetahs?

  • Reintroductions of large carnivores have increasingly been recognized as a strategy to conserve threatened species and restore ecosystem functions.
  • The cheetah is the only large carnivore that has been extirpated, mainly by over-hunting in India in historical times.
  • India now has the economic ability to consider restoring its lost natural heritage for ethical as well as ecological reasons.

Why was the project halted?

  • The court was worried whether the African cheetahs would find the sanctuary a favorable climate as far as the abundance of prey is concerned.
  • Those who challenged the plan argued that the habitat of cheetahs needed to support a genetically viable population.

Issues with cheetah re-introduction

  • Since 2018, dozens of lions have died from diseases, including canine distemper, opening up a frightening possibility of loss when confined to a single location.
  • Establishing an additional free-ranging wild lion population in Kuno is of paramount importance and roadblocks, if any, must be transparently addressed.
  • Clearly, the introduction of African cheetahs cannot take precedence over translocating Asiatic lions from Gujarat to Kuno National Park as ordered by none other than the apex court in 2013.
  • However, simultaneous re-introduction can create a conflict for prey between these two wild cats.


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