After 70 years, cheetahs may once again be one of India’s native animals. The country’s government had stated that the officials had signed an agreement with Namibia to fly cheetahs to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh in Central India for captive breeding. The first eight felines have arrived recently, coinciding with India’s 75th Independence Day celebrations.
India’s environment minister Bhupender Yadav stated, “Completing 75 glorious years of Independence with restoring the fastest terrestrial flagship species, the cheetah, in India, will rekindle the ecological dynamics of the landscape.
“Cheetah reintroduction would also greatly enhance local community livelihoods through eco-tourism prospects in the long term.”
In 1952, the country’s Asiatic cheetah population was declared extinct due to hunting, habitat loss, and food scarcity. It’s also believed that the cheetah is the only large carnivore thought to have gone extinct in the country.
Considering how leopards in India have to come in contact with humans because of the aforementioned factors, they could be the next large carnivore on the way to extinction. But, let’s hope that such a case won’t happen.
Real native animals vs transported animals
While the move has good intentions, it’s not something that all people are in favor of.
Conservationists have been fighting for the translocation of endangered Asiatic lions into Kuno National Park. With India being the home to the world’s only population of this subspecies, of course they think cheetahs are not the priority.
Wildlife biologist and conservation scientist Ravi Chellam said, “This is not a conservation priority for India. If introduction of African cheetah is so important why doesn’t it figure in our National Wildlife Action Plan? The Asiatic lion does figure in it. It’s a vanity project.
“All the ecological roles and functions claimed as benefits from the introduction of African cheetahs would be more than fulfilled by the translocated lions.”
Indian Asiatic lions
The country’s Asiatic lions were hunted to extinction, causing the population to plummet to only between 20 and 50 individuals by the early 1900s. It was so bad, but conservation efforts had brought the population back to about 674 per June 2020.
Even though it’s a good thing, another problem comes: the lions have outgrown the available protected areas in the state of Gujarat. To make matters worse, if there was an epidemic, it could wipe out the entire population.
In 2013, India’s Supreme Court ruled that Asiatic lions should be translocated to Kuno within six months. And not just that, it ruled against a proposal to reintroduce cheetahs into the country as well.
Unfortunately, the translocation never happened. The state government didn’t allow the lions to be transferred out of Gujarat. But two years ago, the government lifted the stay on cheetah proposal, allowing the different subspecies of the cat to return to the Indian soil on an experimental basis.
As to why the cheetahs go to Kuno National Park instead, the country’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change said, “A lot of investments had been done in this Protected Area for reintroducing Asiatic lions.”
You can imagine why the Asiatic lion conservationists are rather cross about this one.
Migratory Monarch Butterflies are now endangered
When we think of a butterfly, chances are you’ll think of monarch butterflies. That’s totally understandable, since these beauties are so iconic and very recognizable with their black, orange, and pale yellow colors.
But if there’s no actions taken to protect them and restore their habitats, we might not see migratory monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus plexippus) anymore at all in the future. Yep, they’re recently listed endangered or threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
So far, the IUCN Red List now includes more than 41,000 species facing extinction.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which helps implement the Endangered Species Act, has listed the butterfly as a candidate for inclusion on its list of endangered and threatened wildlife since December 2020.
Nonprofit conservation group Nature Serve Sean T. O’Brien said, “Few species evoke the awe and wonder that the migratory monarch butterfly commands. While efforts to protect this species are encouraging, much is still needed to ensure its long-term survival.”
Population of migratory monarch butterflies
According to the U.S. Forest Service, monarch butterflies are enchanting pollinators and also unique; they’re the only known butterflies that make a two-way migration like birds.
Monarchs in eastern North America head south to Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains, while those living in the west head to California’s mild coastal regions. Then in the summer, the butterflies return to locations throughout the United States and Canada to breed.
Now, populations of a subspecies of this butterfly, the migratory monarchs, have declined between 22 and 72% over the last ten years. A lot of factors contribute to the decline, such as pesticides, herbicides, deforestation (for logging), urban development, agricultural expansion, drought, wildfire, and severe weather events. As you can see, many are caused by humans.
Those factors don’t only threaten the butterflies, but also milkweed–the only plant that monarch larvae feed on. It’s a rather vicious cycle.
Population in the western hemisphere is the one facing the biggest risk of extinction. According to experts, it has dropped by an estimated 99.9% over the past 40 years, from ten million in the 80s to only 1914 in 2021. It’s concerning how there might not be enough butterflies remaining to keep the population alive.
It does seem like it’s going to be a bleak future for these butterflies, but not all hope is lost. To help boost their numbers back, scientists and conservationists recommend planting more milkweed and nectar flowers. They also encourage maintaining forests and limiting the use of pesticides and herbicides in the butterflies’ range.
Entomologist at the New Mexico BioPark Society Anna Walker said, “People recognize the monarch. People love the monarch. So that gives us an opportunity to do the outreach and get people on board.”
Darkness in light, light in darkness
In the monarch butterflies’ case, there is hope even though it looks grim. That’s the same with some other species too. Per the IUCN update, The Yangtze sturgeon (Acipenser dabryanus) is now sadly listed as extinct in the wild, while other 17 sturgeon species are critically endangered. Sadly, The Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius) is now also extinct.
However, endangered tiger numbers are increasing, with a 40% increase since 2015. Part of the increase may be due to better monitoring efforts, and the population appears to be stable or increasing.