India has rolled out the Save Cheetah plan to save large carnivores from becoming extinct. The government plans to establish viable cheetah metapopulation in India that allows Cheetah to perform its functional role as a top predator and provide space for expansion within its historical range thereby contributing to its global conservation efforts.
The plan includes establishing breeding Cheetah population in safe habitats across its historical range and managing them as a metapopulation. It also aims to use the cheetah as a charismatic flagship and umbrella species to garner resources for restoring open forest and savanna systems that will benefit biodiversity and ecosystem services.
The government also wants to enhance India's capacity to sequester carbon through ecosystem restoration activities in Cheetah conservation areas and thereby contribute to the global climate change mitigation goals. It also wants to use the ensuing opportunity for eco-development and eco-tourism to enhance local community livelihoods.
It also plans to manage conflict by Cheetah or other wildlife with local communities within cheetah conservation areas expediently through compensation, awareness, and management actions to win community support.
The introduction of Cheetah is not only a species recovery program but an effort to restore ecosystems with a lost element that has played a significant role in their evolutionary history, allow ecosystems to provide services to their full potential, and use Cheetah as an umbrella species for conserving the biodiversity of grasslands, savanna, and open forest systems.
Cheetah is a Sanskrit word that finds mention in ancient texts including Vedas and Puranas. It is indeed ironic that the species is currently extinct in India. The original threats that resulted in the extinction of the Cheetah have been abated and India now has the technical and financial ability to bring back its lost Natural Heritage for ethical, ecological, and economic considerations.
Successful conservation introductions are a blend of the best science, technology, sociological aspects, and commitment of financial resources. These aspects are integrated into this Action Plan based on the modern scientific approach recommended by the latest International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines for reintroduction and other conservation translocations, providing the framework for bringing back the charismatic Cheetah to India.