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India-Namibia Sign Agreement on Wildlife Conservation & Sustainable Biodiversity Utilization

The Memorandum of Understanding facilitates the development of a mutually beneficial relationship to promote wildlife conservation and sustainable biodiversity utilization based on mutual respect, sovereignty, equality, and the best interests of both India and Namibia.

Shivam Dwivedi
MoU Signing Ceremony on Wildlife Conservation & Sustainable Biodiversity Use
MoU Signing Ceremony on Wildlife Conservation & Sustainable Biodiversity Use

Government of India and the Government of the Republic of Namibia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on wildlife conservation and sustainable biodiversity utilization in order to restore the cheetah to its historical range in India.

The Memorandum of Understanding facilitates the development of a mutually beneficial relationship to promote wildlife conservation and sustainable biodiversity utilization based on mutual respect, sovereignty, equality, and the best interests of both India and Namibia.

The following are the main thrust areas of the MoU:

  • Biodiversity conservation, with a particular emphasis on cheetah conservation and restoration in extinct cheetah range areas,

  • Sharing and exchanging expertise and capacities in two countries to promote cheetah conservation,

  • Wildlife conservation and sustainable biodiversity utilization through the exchange of best practices in technological applications, mechanisms of livelihood generation for local communities living in wildlife habitats, and biodiversity management.

  • Collaboration in climate change, environmental governance, environmental impact assessments, pollution and waste management, and other mutually beneficial areas.

  • Personnel exchange for wildlife management training and education, including the sharing of technical expertise, as appropriate.

Cheetahs hold a special place in the national conservation ethic and ethos. Returning the cheetah to India would have equally significant conservation implications. Cheetah restoration will be part of a prototype for restoring original cheetah habitats and biodiversity, assisting in the prevention of biodiversity degradation and loss. Cheetahs have the lowest conflict with the human interests of any large carnivore because they pose no threat to humans and rarely attack large livestock.

Bringing back a top predator restores historic evolutionary balance, which has cascading effects on various levels of the ecosystem, resulting in better management and restoration of wildlife habitat (grasslands, scrublands, and open forest ecosystems), conservation of cheetah prey and sympatric endangered species, and a top-down effect of a large predator that enhances and maintains diversity in lower trophic levels of the ecosystems.

The primary goal 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 allows for the cheetah's expansion within its historical range, thereby contributing to global conservation efforts.

Between 2010 and 2012, ten sites were surveyed. Kuno National Park in the state of Madhya Pradesh was considered ready for receiving cheetah with the least management interventions among the potential sites evaluated for the feasibility of establishing cheetah populations in India based on IUCN guidelines for reintroductions that consider species viability according to demography, genetics, and socio-economics of conflict and livelihoods.

Maximum Entropy Models were used to model equivalent niche space in India using cheetah presence locations from Southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe) along with relevant eco-climatic covariates. The analysis shows that the cheetah's southern African 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 was developed in accordance with IUCN guidelines, taking into account site assessment and prey density, as well as the park's current cheetah carrying capacity, among other factors.

MoEF&CC would provide financial and administrative support to the cheetah reintroduction programme in India through NTCA. Participation of government and corporate agencies in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) would be encouraged in order to receive additional funding at the state and federal levels. The WII, as well as national and international carnivore/cheetah experts/agencies, would provide technical and knowledge support to the programme.

Through capacity-building programmes in African cheetah conservation reserves, officials from the MoEF&CC, NTCA, WII, and state forest departments will be sensitized to ensure the success of cheetah reintroduction in India. Furthermore, African cheetah managers and biologists would be invited to train their Indian counterparts.

Monitoring will be the responsibility of the Kuno National Park management, which is essential for protection and management, while a cheetah research team will monitor for research. Various outreach and awareness programmes will be implemented to encourage local villagers to participate. Sarpanches (village chiefs), local leaders, teachers, social workers, religious figures, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) would be given a greater stake in conservation. 

Awareness programmes are also being planned for schools, colleges, and villages to educate people about conservation and the various schemes offered by the forest department. With a local mascot named "Chintu Cheetah," public awareness campaigns for the local communities are underway. Madhya Pradesh's Chief Minister has directed all state officials and elected members of the state assembly from the constituencies surrounding Kuno National Park to disseminate information about the cheetah-human interface.

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