South Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Reclaiming the Grassland for the Cheetah: Science and Nature Conservation in India

Friday, July 6
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Cypress, New Building

The role of scientists in influencing the aims and implementation of biological conservation in developing countries has been a topic of debate and needs elucidation. The Asiatic cheetah reintroduction plan in India sparked much disagreement on the pros and cons of attempting to revive the population of a large carnivore that had been missing from the landscape for over half a century. This paper attempts to trace the history of thought and imagination on cheetah reintroduction and explores the uneasy alliances amongst the constituencies of science, conservation, knowledge, and power through the medium of the cheetah. I suggest that the decision to reintroduce the Asiatic cheetah in India was motivated by political symbolism and had little grounding in ecological sciences. Science was seemingly used as a legitimizing tool for a politically influenced conservation goal which had little space for socio-economic constraints, equity issues or academic rigor. While there are many strands of wildlife conservation emerging in India, the dominant paradigm upheld by biologists continues to be negligent of both scientific and social concerns.

Ghazala Shahabuddin

University of Pennsylvania, United States

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1 - Reclaiming the Grassland for the Cheetah: Science and Nature Conservation in India



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