India signs MoU with Namibia on wildlife conservation

New Delhi: The Government of India and the Republic of Namibia have today entered into a Memorandum of Understanding on Wildlife Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity to establish the Cheetah in the historic range of India .

The MoU facilitates the development of a mutually beneficial relationship to promote wildlife conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity based on the principles of mutual respect, sovereignty, equality and best interests. from India and Namibia.

The main areas of intervention of the MoU are:

Biodiversity conservation with a particular focus on the conservation and restoration of cheetahs in their former ranges from which they disappeared,
Sharing and exchange of expertise and capacities aimed at promoting cheetah conservation in two countries,
Wildlife conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity by sharing best practices
Technological applications, livelihood generation mechanisms for local communities living in wildlife habitats and sustainable management of biodiversity.
Collaboration in the areas of climate change, environmental governance, environmental impact assessments, pollution and waste management and other areas of common interest.
Exchange of personnel for wildlife management training and education, including sharing of technical expertise, as appropriate.

The cheetah has a very special significance for national conservation ethics and ethics. Bringing the cheetah back to India would have equally important conservation ramifications. Cheetah restoration will be part of a prototype restoration of original cheetah habitats and biodiversity, helping to halt degradation and rapid biodiversity loss.

Among large carnivores, conflicts with human interests are lowest for cheetahs, as they pose no threat to humans and do not generally attack large livestock. Bringing back a top predator restores the historic evolutionary balance, causing cascading effects at different levels of the ecosystem, leading to better management and restoration of wildlife habitat (grasslands, scrublands and open forest ecosystems), conservation of cheetah prey and threatened sympatric species and a negative top-effect of a top predator that enhances and maintains diversity in lower trophic levels of ecosystems.

The main objective of the Cheetah Reintroduction Project in India is to establish a viable cheetah metapopulation in India that allows the cheetah to perform its functional role as a top predator and provides space for the expansion of the cheetah in its range. historical range, contributing to its global conservation efforts. .

Surveys of 10 sites were conducted between 2010 and 2012. From the potential sites assessed for the feasibility of establishing cheetah populations in India based on IUCN guidelines for reintroductions that consider viability of species based on demographics, genetics and the socio-economics of conflict and livelihoods, Kuno National Park in the state of Madhya Pradesh was considered ready to receive cheetahs with the least amount of intervention management because many investments had been made in this protected area to reintroduce Asiatic lions.

Cheetah presence locations from southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe) were used with relevant ecoclimatic covariates to model the equivalent niche space in India using maximum entropy models. The analysis shows that the southern African cheetah climatic niche exists in India, with Kuno National Park having a high probability of cheetah habitat suitability.

The action plan for cheetah translocations in Kuno National Park has been developed following IUCN guidelines and taking into account site assessment and prey density, current carrying capacity of cheetahs from Kuno National Park, among other criteria.

While Kuno National Park’s current carrying capacity is a maximum of 21 cheetahs, once restored the larger landscape can hold around 36 cheetahs. Carrying capacity can be further improved by including the remaining part of the Kuno Fauna Division (1,280 km2) through restoration of prey.

Financial and administrative support for the cheetah reintroduction program in India would be provided by the MoEF&CC through the NTCA. The participation of government agencies and businesses through corporate social responsibility (CSR) would be encouraged for additional funding at the state and central level. The Wildlife Institute of India (WII), national and international carnivore/cheetah experts/agencies will provide technical support and knowledge to the program.

Officials from MoEF&CC, NTCA, WII and State Forestry Departments would be sensitized to ensure the success of cheetah reintroduction in India, through capacity building programs in Cheetah Conservation Reserves in Africa . In addition, Cheetah managers and biologists from Africa would be asked to provide training to their Indian counterparts.

Kuno National Park management will be responsible for monitoring which is essential for protection and management while a cheetah research team will oversee the research. Various outreach and sensitization programs will be conducted to encourage the participation of local villagers. Sarpanches (village chiefs), local leaders, teachers, social workers, religious figures and NGOs would be more involved in conservation. Awareness programs are also planned in schools, colleges and villages to make people aware of conservation and the various mechanisms available with the forest service. Public awareness campaigns are underway for local communities with a local mascot named “Chintu Cheetah”. The Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh has asked all state officials and elected members of the state assembly from constituencies around Kuno National Park to disseminate information regarding the cheetah-human interface.

As instructed by the Supreme Court of India in 2020, the reintroduction of cheetah in India is overseen by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), guided and led by the committee of experts appointed by the Supreme Court of India.

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