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By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, October 7: Three weeks after the release of transcontinental transfer of Cheetah in the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has constituted a Task Force for monitoring the grassland predator.

The government is aiming to replicate the success of tiger conservation in protection and successful rehabilitation of Cheetah. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) would facilitate the working of Cheetah Task Force and render all necessary help.

“The Task Force shall be in-force for a period of two years, which may appoint a subcommittee to regularly visit the Cheetah introduction area as and when decided by them,” said the Ministry in an official statement on Friday.

Cheetah restoration is part of a prototype or model for restoration of original cheetah habitats and their biodiversity, said the Ministry, adding that this will help to stem the degradation and rapid loss of biodiversity.

It was also stated that bringing back a top predator restores historic evolutionary balance resulting in cascading effects on various levels of the eco-system. “Bringing the cheetah back is expected to have important conservation ramifications. The cheetah has been the evolutionary natural selection force that has shaped the adaptation of high speeds in Indian antelopes and gazelles,” said the Ministry.

By restoring cheetah, we would also be able to save not only its prey base comprising certain threatened species, but also other endangered species of the grasslands/open forest eco-systems, some of which are on the brink of extinction, added the ministry.

Some of the wildlife experts had expressed concerns that the introduction of cheetah in the Kuno National Park would be full of challenges for lack of prey base and also the absence of grassland. Cheetah is a grassland predator.

“The Task Force has been constituted to review, progress and monitor the health status of Cheetah, upkeep of the quarantine and soft release enclosures, protection status of entire area, adherence to the defined protocols by forest and veterinary officials,” said the Ministry in the statement.

The Task Force will advice on Cheetah introduction in India to the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department and NTCA on status of Cheetah with respect to overall health, behavior and their upkeep.

The Task Force will also monitor hunting skills and adaptation of Cheetahs to the habitat of Kuno National Park. It will also decide on Cheetah habitat for eco-tourism and suggest regulations.

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