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Prep Before Cheetahs Become Free Ranging In Kuno National Park

  When another male cheetah, Obaan,joined the two rock stars – Freddie and Elton -- in yet another bigger enclosure of Kuno national park on November 18, only five female cheetahs remained in smaller bomas in the park where they were released on September 17. Like the three males, the five female spotted cats will also be released soon in larger bomas to run and chase their prey to kill. India’s  wildlife authorities accompanied by the experts from the cheetah conservation fund (CCF) from Namibia   have been taking utmost care and caution  before the  cheetahs in Kuno are ultimately made “free -ranging” meaning released in open to move around the entire length and breadth of the park. “Free ranging cheetahs and their monitoring  will be like a grand finale of the Project Cheetah to be played in Kuno for a longer  period in the coming years'", said a senior official of the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFC&C).  Apprehensions, Concerns  on Chee

Why Cheetahs in Kuno National Park Are Linked with International Ivory Trade ?



 Controversy on India’s alleged compromise on its stand against the ivory trade to facilitate cheetah translocation refuses to die . It started long before Namibian cheetahs landed in India and released in Kuno National Park on September 17. After the recent media reports on the issue, the Union environment ministry issued a denial.  It said “a news report on Namibia seeking India's support for lifting a UN ban on trade of ivory as part of the cheetah deal "largely relies on speculation, hearsay and not on facts". But knowledgeable sources stood to the "compromise" theory.  Let’s find out why the cheetah translocation issue is linked with elephant poaching and  internaional ivory trade.

 Why Ivory Trade was Banned 

Huge quantity of Ivory is stockpiled in Namibia along with some other African nations. The ivory was confiscated after poaching of elephants in several African countries. The number of wild elephants dropped dramatically across elephant range states worldwide. Elephant populations in Africa plummeted from 1.3 million in 1979 to around 600,000 in 1989.The decline in numbers continued.  Poaching for ivory – the elephant tusk – is one big reason why its trade was banned. Elephant poaching was mainly impacting the surviving elephant population. In India, we faced a similar problem with rhinoceroses horns.  Poachers were killing the one horned pachyderm in Kaziranga national park for its horn. In September 2021, the Assam government burnt piles of rhino horns sending a strong message to poachers. There is a high demand for rhino horns and ivory in international markets, especially for traditional Chinese medicines. India is also a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) treaty on ivory trade. 

Also readControversies Chase Cheetahs In Kuno National Park

The CITES treaty to which it is party banned international trade in 1989.India rendered illegal the domestic trade in ivory in 1986 and imported ivory in 1991.  India illegalized trade in ivory from Asian elephants in 1986 by amending the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. Asian elephant is listed in Schedule I of the Act. It was in this backdrop why the controversy over India’s alleged support for the ivory trade in lieu of cheetah translocation keeps resurfacing. Trade of wildlife body parts is banned under the United Nations Convention on CITES.  Namibia and a few other countries such as Botswana and South Africa want CITES to lift the ban on some wildlife products so that they can sell stockpiles of ivory and other wildlife parts internationally and generate revenue for “wildlife conservation”. Conservationists across the globe are opposed to this.

Namibian MoU  Terms Not In Public Domain

When India started looking for cheetah import from African, Namibia was one of the markets. Though India signed an MoU with Namibia, the one with the South Africa is still pending. Initially cheetah translocation was delayed from Namibia also. But the south west African country ultimately signed an MoU with India on July 20. On September 17, eight cheetahs were also transported from Namibia to India and released in Kuno National park. Regarding the MoU, the government its main thrust areas include “biodiversity conservation with specific focus onconservation and restoration of cheetah in their former range areas from which they went extinct” and “sharing and exchange of expertise and capacities” to promote cheetah conservation in both countries. But the terms and conditions of the MoU are still not  known.

“What are the terms andconditions for the cheetah translocation mentioned in the MoU signed with Namibia? They are still not known as the MoU is still not in public domain raising  speculations and suspicion on the ivory issue”, said conservationists in India. However,  after the recent media reports the government  issued a contradiction -“The government of India has not received any  written communication from the Republic of Namibia regarding lifting of ban on ivory trade”. All the speculations may come to rest after  next month in November  during the Conference of the Parties (CoP19) to CITES in Panama where all countries will vote once again on  the ivory issue among others. “We will come toknow if India had actually compromised its stand against the ivory trade forthe sake of bringing African cheetahs to India,”a senior conservationist said.

Representational Images : Cover Image : MoEFC&C


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