‘On this historic occasion of the addition of Cheetah to the Indian ecosystem, let us hope for increased strength and resilience of India’s bio-diversity and its subsequent growth in the future.'
On 17th September 2022, Indians witnessed a historic event when Cheetahs were introduced in the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh long after they were declared extinct from India in 1952. This commences the long journey of trying to once again let Cheetahs roam the grasslands of India. But do you know that this project was ideated a decade back?
Our blog today focuses on the planning, implementation, challenges, and gaps of such projects or initiatives and what we can learn from those.
Planning of the project: ‘A project well planned is a project half done.’
2010: The proposal to bring African Cheetahs to India was put forward by the Ministry of Environment and forests.
2012: The proposal was challenged in the Supreme Court.
Why was it challenged? ‘A project having deficiencies in planning can be susceptible to challenges.’
Kuno National Park was earlier identified as a site earlier for the transfer of Asiatic Lions of Gujarat. So it was challenged before the Supreme Court that the Ministry’s decision to introduce African Cheetahs in the same venue as that of Asiatic Lions was not placed before the standing committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL), the apex body in India for all wildlife related matters only feasibility studies were taken. Read about this news here.
Also, as per various wildlife activists, these selected places were not fit for reintroducing the Cheetah. If we compare the size of Serengeti National Park and Kruger National Park both in Tanzania and South Africa respectively both of them are in the range of 14,000-19,000 sq km more than the venues being considered in India. Indian venues were not big enough to relocate the Cheetah and their prey base was low. Read about this news here.
As the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) had not yet taken the decision on importing Cheetahs, the Supreme Court stayed the Environment ministry’s decision.
2013: Supreme Court quashes the Ministry of Environment’s decision to import Cheetahs from Namibia as the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) had not been consulted.
2017: The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), which provides statutory authority to project tiger, a conservation program requested the Supreme Court to review the 2013 decision to disallow the import of Cheetah as feasibility studies had been done and the National Wildlife Board had been consulted on the matter.
2018: International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an organization working in the field of nature conservation, gave permission to relocate the Cheetahs.
2020: Supreme Court allows the project to start on a trial basis.
17th September 2022: 8 Cheetahs, (5 females and 3 males) arrive in India through a special aircraft customized for this purpose.
Why were Cheetahs brought from Africa only?
Cheetahs are available in Iran as well, but they are highly endangered and hence the Iranian government would not have facilitated this transfer. Hence India reached out to Namibia and South Africa.
Gaps in projects - Plan your work then work your plan.
The time taken for the project is high. Since the proposal was placed, it took almost 12 years for the project to come to fruition. One of the major reasons for this was improper procedures being followed. If the National Wildlife Board had been consulted earlier, the Supreme Court might not have stopped the project implementation in 2013.
This is a lesson for all organizations as this emphasizes the importance of procedural non-compliance and non-adherence could not only result in time lags, but legal problems as well.
Identify and analyze the threats and risks upfront to make the project successful and achieve the goal as planned.
Cheetahs need huge grasslands. However, despite lacking huge grasslands, the government has proceeded with the project. It remains to be seen how the project fares in spite of this visible gap. Were huge grasslands available, the possibilities of this project succeeding would be even higher. Government is making attempts to ensure this gap is mitigated as soon as possible.
Man-animal conflict is an everlasting problem as Cheetahs may hunt small livestock bringing them into conflict with farmers and other people living around. The government has also initiated the Cheetah Mitra Project (a sub-project supporting the main project) to create awareness about the project and to prevent untoward incidents or any kind of negative impacts.
Apart from the surveillance being done for protection of these Cheetahs, specially trained dog squads are also being used to protect from the poachers and other threats. Not just that, there are two elephants named Lakshmi and Siddhanth doubling up as bodyguards of these Cheetahs in Kuno.
This project is definitely a great initiative to balance the eco-system and support the environment; however visible risks may hamper it from achieving its goal. To make this successful, these risks need to be mitigated effectively and timely.
Gorisco wishes all the best to the Govt of India, Govt of Madhya Pradesh and all fellow Indians for success of this great initiative!
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