Eight cheetahs from Namibia arrived in Gwalior on PM Modi’s Birthday to mark the beginning of a migration of Namibian cheetahs to India approved by the Supreme Court more than two years ago. It coincides with the prime minister’s birthday. In 2017, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) petitioned the Supreme Court to reintroduce cheetahs to India.
The court granted the application but made an important distinction. The introduced species was the African cheetah, which did not actually exist in India, so it was a translocation rather than a reintroduction.
A bench led by then Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde also recorded that cheetahs were experimentally moved, cared for and monitored to see if they could adapt to Indian conditions. The NTCA is run by professionals who oversee the entire process.
The counsel from NTCA Senior Advocate Prashant Chandra Sen told the Supreme Court that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines recognize the reintroduction of species as a legitimate process and that further investigation into the introduction of cheetahs into India has taken place.
Senior Counsel’s position was that the goal was to establish critical species capable of conserving and restoring natural biodiversity for long-term economic benefit. In India, the strategy worked when tigers were reintroduced to Panna and Sariska.
The reason for choosing the cheetah is that it is a grassland-dwelling species in India and grasslands are being greatly reduced, which is further argued to have conservation benefits.
So saving the cheetah also saves other endangered grassland species. Such efforts also contribute to the genetic diversity of the species.
Previously, in 2009 the plans to reintroduce cheetahs to Kuno were discussed by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change (MOEF).
However, the plan was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2012. At the time, reintroducing the Cheetah from Gir to Kuno was considered a priority. The Supreme Court also believed the exercise required further investigation and study.