Dr. Kelvin Kemm. File photo.
Dr. Kelvin Kemm. File photo.

Tech Track: Moving African cheetahs to India is the activation of a technological system

By Opinion Time of article published Jun 10, 2021

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By: Kelvin Kemm

MANY people consider the term “technology” to imply some object like a mechanical or electronic gadget. That is not a correct perception. The most fundamental factor in technology is that it is a system. So, you can improve technological performance merely by altering a process or pathway.

For example, if you drive to work over a distance of 30km and it takes you 40 minutes and then one day you discover a short cut, then that can become a technological upgrade. Why?

Let us say that your short cut cuts the travel distance to 23km and cuts the travel time to 30 minutes. That would mean that you would fit in more round trips to work before the next car service was due. So you would save on annual car service charges. You would also have more time at work or at home, to do something else.

If that principle were applied to a production line, that could then result in significantly improved profit without investing in any new machinery, new training, new staff, and so on. All you have to do is rethink the process. That is not so easy.

With this in mind, I was interested to note that wild cheetahs are going to be relocated from South Africa and Namibia to India. Two expert teams are leaving for India to start the implementation; one from South Africa and one from Namibia. This will be the first time in the world that a large carnivore has been relocated from one continent to another.

What makes this action feasible is that there used to be wild cheetahs in India, but they became extinct. So the fundamental criteria for success exist.

From decades past, the Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap has acquired the dubious distinction of having shot the last three wild Asian cheetahs in 1947. In 1952, the Indian government declared the cheetah extinct.

An expert committee under the chairmanship of Dr M K Ranjitsinh has now carried out an assessment of suitable sites in India for cheetahs, and initially identified six sites. Further refinement reduced this number to four.

One has now been chosen as the initiator site. It is the Kuno National Park. It has the required semi-arid grasslands which stretch across the region of Rajasthan-Madhya Pradesh.

The Supreme Court of India authorised the whole exercise a year ago, although related study had been going on for over a decade. So this is all being handled very professionally, from the highest levels.

The Dean of the Wildlife Institute of India, Dr Y V Jhala said that a small group of about 35 to 40 cheetahs would be introduced initially.

What has happened so far is that an area of 1235km2 has been identified as potential habitat. But to make all this operational, 20 villages had to be relocated and 2000 families had to be compensated.

Where the concept of a “technology system” comes into play is that it is clearly necessary for there to be food for wild cheetahs to catch, plus an associated habitat. The grasslands must be correct in various botanical aspects.

So the South African and Namibian teams have to train their Indian counterparts in a number of aspects of a cheetah ecological system.

It is also expected that the identified grasslands will now recover themselves to a great degree, as was noted with a previous Tiger Project. The Indian authorities have pointed out that they have a number of Schedule 1 protected animals already in the reserved area.

Endangered species, such as the caracal, should now recover considerably by themselves. Dr Ranjitsinh has pointed out that although cheetah hunting contributed significantly to the extinction of the Asian cheetah in India, another major contributing factor was the human disturbance of the whole ecosystem.

So ecosystem reconstruction is very important.

In modern times, experts in South Africa and Namibia, as well as in India, are very well aware of the fact that such an historic relocation is a case of the activation of an entire biological system which encompasses the cheetahs. You can just release them and walk away.

This whole exercise is clearly the activation of an entire technological system of great complexity. Good luck and best wishes to them. It is not easy.

Dr Kelvin Kemm is a nuclear physicist and is CEO of Stratek Business Strategy Consultants.

*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites


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