Rajasthan govt to work on action plan for introduction of cheetahs – india news

Cheetahs roamed India’s grasslands till the 1950s when they were hunted to extinction.

The Rajasthan government will prepare an ‘action plan’ to explore the possibility of introduction of cheetah, the fastest animal on the planet, in the state, officials said.

A committee of experts set up by Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WW) has zeroed in three states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat – where cheetah population could be re-introduced. For that, the WII needs to conduct feasibility studies.

On Thursday, a WII proposal to conduct the study in Rajasthan was taken up for consideration in the state wildlife board. A presentation was also made by WII scientists on why Rajasthan has possible sites for reintroduction of cheetah and its potential to have the animal.

“After finalizing the action plan, a decision would soon be taken on the WII proposal,” Rajasthan forest Minister Sukhram Vishnoi.

In February this year, the Supreme Court had allowed the introduction of cheetah under the project which was initiated by then environment minister Jairam Ramesh in 2009.

Also read: Supreme Court allows introduction of African Cheetah in India

Congress MLA from Sangod (Kota) Bharat Singh, who was present at the meeting, said the Central government has permitted the re-introduction and conservation of cheetah which could be brought from Africa.

“The states who could take the initiative and have potential and suitable sites are Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. They can get cheetah which could be associated with the development and promotion of tourism,” Singh said.

Singh said at the meeting, the WII representative mentioned two sites – one each in Jaisalmer and Kota – for cheetah introduction, said Singh.

“Shahgarh Bulge in Jaisalmer was among the top sites identified in 2010 by an expert panel constituted by the central government to reintroduce cheetah in India,” said a forest department official.

Shahgarh Bulge in Jaisalmer was among the top three sites identified in 2010 by the expert panel. The other two sites – Kuno Palpur and Nauradehi – were in Madhya Pradesh.

As 10 years have passed since the last assessment was done, experts said Shahgarh Bulge needs to be re-assessed for prey population viability to sustain cheetahs and the ability of the habitat to sustain these animals in the long run.

“Shahgarh now has animal population which needs to be relocated if the site has to be considered for introducing cheetah. The then government had reservation over the site and had written to the Central government saying the region has oil deposits and was very close to Pakistan border,” said the official.

The WII experts also said that apart from Shahgarh Bulge, relocation sites can also be explored at other places in Barmer and Jaisalmer districts. “With Rajasthan being the biggest state geographically and the availability of dry and plain grassland, the state has the maximum potential,” said an expert who was not willing to be quoted.

Divya Bhanu Sinh, member of the expert committee formed by Central government in 2010 and author of ‘The end of a trail: The cheetah in India’ book, said, “The Wildlife Institute of India surveyed possible sites to introduce cheetah where one was Shahgarh Bulge in Jaisalmer; and other two in Madhya Pradesh – Kuno Palpur and Nauradehi”.

Kunal Palpur was selected as the site for the introduction of cheetahs and the environment ministry had given its permission to the Madhya Pradesh government to import nine cheetahs in different batches from Namibia for translocation into Kuno Palpur wildlife sanctuary at Sheopur where the last cheetah was hunted in the 1950s.

But before the process to import cheetahs could start, the project was challenged in the Supreme Court on the ground that the sites selected were not viable for cheetah re-introduction. The apex court stayed the project and formed an expert committee to examine all aspects. In February, it finally approved the project.

MK Ranjitsinh, who headed the expert committee, said that the cheetah’s re-introduction is an interesting project not only for India but for the entire world as such long-distance relocation of big animals in wild has not happened. “As cheetah was native to India till the 1950s, them adopting to hot and humid temperature of the country would not be very difficult. But, we need a proper wildlife management plan of habitats for that,” he said.

Cheetahs roamed about India’s grasslands till the 1950s when they were hunted to extinction in the country. Iran has a sub-species of the Asiatic cheetah but has refused to share them with India, forcing the government to look for the African ones. The Asian and the African species separated between 30,000 and 60,000 years ago.

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