Cheetahs back on Indian soil after 70 years
The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, yesterday (September 17) released wild Cheetahs – which had become extinct in India – in Kuno National Park.
Cheetahs – brought from Namibia – are being introduced in India under Project Cheetah, the world’s first inter-continental large wild carnivore translocation project.
The Prime Minister released Cheetahs at two release points in Kuno National Park. The Prime Minister also interacted with Cheetah Mitras, Cheetah Rehabilitation Management Group and students at the venue. The Prime Minister addressed the Nation on this historic occasion.
In his address to the nation, the Prime Minister expressed gratitude by highlighting the handful of opportunities that give humanity a chance to rectify the past and build a new future. Shri Modi mentioned that we have one such moment in front of us today. “Decades ago, the age-old link of biodiversity that was broken and became extinct, today we have a chance to restore it”, he said, “Today the cheetah has returned to the soil of India.” The Prime Minister underlined that this monumental occasion has led to the nature-loving consciousness of India being awakened with full force. Shri Modi congratulated all the countrymen on this historic occasion while making a special mention of Namibia and its government with whose cooperation, the cheetahs have returned to Indian soil after decades. “I am sure, these cheetahs will not only make us aware of our responsibilities towards nature but will also make us aware of our human values and traditions”, the Prime Minister remarked.
Taking note of Azadi ka Amritkaal, the Prime Minister recalled the ‘Panch Pran’ and highlighted the importance of ‘taking pride in our heritage’ and ‘liberation from the mentality of slavery’. The Prime Minister added, “When we are away from our roots, we tend to lose a lot.” He further recalled that in the last centuries, the exploitation of nature was considered to be a symbol of power and modernity. “In 1947, when only the last three cheetahs were left in the country, they too were hunted mercilessly and irresponsibly in the Sal forests”, he added.
The Prime Minister remarked that even though cheetahs had become extinct from India in 1952, no meaningful effort was made to rehabilitate them for the past seven decades. The Prime Minister expressed elation that in the Azadi Ka Amit Mahotsav, the country has started to rehabilitate cheetahs with new energy. “Amrit has the power to revive even the dead”, Shri Modi remarked. The Prime Minister further added that this elixir of duty and faith in the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav is not just reviving our heritage, but now cheetahs have also set foot on the soil of India.
Drawing everyone’s attention to the years of hard work that went behind making this rehabilitation successful, the Prime Minister said that the utmost energy was deployed for an area that is not given too much political importance. He mentioned that a detailed Cheetah Action Plan was prepared while our talented scientists conducted extensive research, working closely with South African and Namibian experts. The Prime Minister further added that scientific surveys were conducted across the country to locate the most suitable area for cheetahs, and then Kuno National Park was chosen for this auspicious start. “Today, our hard work is in front of us as a result”, he added.
The Prime Minister reiterated that when nature and the environment are protected, our future becomes secure and the avenues for growth and prosperity open up. Shri Modi further added that when the cheetahs sprint in Kuno National Park, the grassland ecosystem will be restored and it will also lead to an increase in biodiversity. Shri Modi highlighted that employment opportunities will increase as a result of the growing eco-tourism in the area thereby opening up new possibilities for development.
The Prime Minister made a request to all the countrymen to act with patience and wait for a few months to witness the cheetahs released in Kuno National Park. “Today these cheetahs have come as guests, and are unaware of this area” he remarked, “For these cheetahs to be able to make Kuno National Park their home, we have to give them a few months’ time.” The Prime Minister stressed that international guidelines are being followed and India is trying its best to settle these cheetahs. “We must not allow our efforts to fail”, the Prime Minister added.
The Prime Minister pointed out that today when the world looks at nature and the environment, it talks about sustainable development. “For India, nature and environment, its animals and birds, are not just about sustainability and security but the basis of India’s sensibility and spirituality”, he said. “We are taught to care about even the smallest creatures living around us. Our traditions are such that if the life of a living being goes away without any reason, then we are filled with guilt. Then how can we accept that the existence of an entire species is lost because of us?”, he added.
The Prime Minister added that today cheetahs are found in some countries of Africa, and in Iran, however, India’s name was removed from that list long ago. “Children will not have to go through this irony in the years to come. I am sure they will be able to see the cheetah running in their own country, in Kuno National Park. Today a big void in our forest and life is being filled through the cheetah”, Shri Modi said.
The Prime Minister remarked that the India of the 21st century is giving a message to the whole world that economy and ecology are not conflicting fields. He said that India is a living and breathing example that economic progress of the country can take place along with protecting the environment. “Today, on one hand, we are included in the fastest growing economies of the world, at the same time the forest areas of the country are also expanding rapidly”, the Prime Minister pointed out.
Throwing light on the work carried out by the government, the Prime Minister said that since the formation of our government in 2014, about 250 new protected areas have been added in the country. There has also been a big increase in the number of Asiatic lions here and Gujarat has emerged as a dominating sphere of Asiatic lions in the country. “Decades of hard work, research-based policies and public participation have a big role behind this”, Shri Modi added, “I remember, we took a pledge in Gujarat – we will increase respect for wild animals, and reduce conflict. Today the effect of that thinking is before us as a result.”
The Prime Minister further pointed out that we have achieved the target of doubling the number of tigers ahead of time. He recalled when the existence of one-horned rhinoceros was in danger in Assam, but today their number has also gone up. The number of elephants has also increased to more than 30 thousand in the last few years. Shri Modi also pointed out the work done to preserve the flora and fauna of India in the expansion of wetlands. He said that the life and needs of crores of people all over the world are dependent on wetland ecology.
“Today 75 wetlands in the country have been declared as Ramsar sites, of which 26 sites have been added in the last 4 years”, the Prime Minister remarked, “The effect of these efforts of the country will be visible for centuries to come, and will pave new paths for progress.”
The Prime Minister also drew everyone’s attention to the global issues that India is addressing today. He reiterated the need to analyse global problems, their solutions and even our lives in a holistic way. Mentioning the mantra of LiFE i.e., Lifestyle for the Environment for the world, and the efforts of the International Solar Alliance, the Prime Minister said that India is giving a platform to the world. The success of these efforts will decide the direction and future of the world.
The Prime Minister stressed that the time has arrived when we need to assess global challenges as our own individual challenges and a small change in our lives can become a basis for the future of the whole earth. “I am sure that India’s efforts and traditions will guide the entire humanity in this direction, and give strength to the dream of a better world”, the Prime Minister concluded.
It may be noted that the release of wild Cheetahs by the Prime Minister in Kuno National Park is part of his efforts to revitalise and diversify India’s wildlife and its habitat. The cheetah was declared extinct from India in 1952. The Cheetahs that were released are from Namibia and have been brought under an MoU signed earlier this year. The introduction of Cheetah in India is being done under Project Cheetah, the world’s first inter-continental large wild carnivore translocation project.
Cheetahs will help restore open forest and grassland ecosystems in India. This will help conserve biodiversity and enhance the ecosystem services like water security, carbon sequestration and soil moisture conservation, benefiting society at large. This effort, in line with the Prime Minister’s commitment to environmental protection and wildlife conservation, will also lead to enhanced livelihood opportunities for the local community through eco-development and ecotourism activities.
The historic reintroduction of Cheetahs in India is part of a long series of measures for ensuring sustainability and environment protection in the last eight years which has resulted in significant achievements in the area of environment protection and sustainability. . The coverage of Protected Areas which was 4.90% of the country’s geographical area in 2014 has now increased to 5.03%. This includes an increase in Protected Areas in the country from 740 with an area of 1,61,081.62 sq.kms. in 2014 to present 981 with an area of 1,71,921 sq.kms.
Forest and tree cover has increased by 16,000 square kms in the last four years. India is among few countries in the world where forest cover is consistently increasing.
There has also been an increase in the number of community reserves. From just 43 in 2014 their numbers are more than 100 in 2019.
India is home to 52 Tiger Reserves covering approximately 75,000 Sq Km area in 18 States with approximately 75% population of the wild tiger at global level. India achieved the goal of doubling the tiger numbers in 2018 itself, four years in advance from the targeted year 2022. The Tiger Population in India has increased from 2,226 in 2014 to 2,967 in 2018.
The budgetary allocation for tiger conservation has increased from Rs 185 crore in 2014 to Rs 300 crore in 2022.
The population of Asiatic Lions has shown a steady increase with a population of 674 individuals with an increase rate of 28.87 per cent (one of the highest growth rates so far) from the 523 lions in 2015.
India now (2020) has 12,852 leopards as compared to the previous estimate of 7910 conducted in 2014. More than 60% increase in population has been recorded.