MP waits for SC nod to welcome African cheetahs
New Delhi/Bhopal: The ambitious plan of Madhya Pradesh to reintroduce the Asiatic cheetah in the wildlife sanctuaries, a critically endangered subspecies, will go a long way in environmental conservation. Last month, which was nearly two years after the apex court had stalled the cheetah re-introduction project, the state government moved an assertive petition to let them go ahead with the plan in the larger interest of ecology.
Earlier too, in 2013 the state government moved the court to allow them to go ahead with the conservation programmme. This petition suggested a comprehensive study of Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary and Kuno- Palampur wildlife sanctuary in the central Indian state for introducing African cheetahs. Around two years back, the Ministry of Environment & Forests signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the state government for transporting cheetahs and giving them a natural habitat to breed.
However, this initiative was interrupted due to paucity of funds at the Central level and the verdict of the Supreme Court in the year 2012 to first reintroduce Asiatic lions from Gir in Palam Kuno, to safeguard cultural heritage. “It is the only mammalian species to have gone extinct in peninsular India in historical times and bringing it back will have special significance for the national conservation ethic and ethos. Cheetah are likely to present the lowest level of conflict with human interests,” said the petition filed in 2013, while adding that their re-introduction would help conservation of grasslands and open forests in the manner tiger conservation did. In 2009, the Indian government guided by the persistent effort of various environmental engineers and social scientists introduced the ‘Cheetah Reintroduction Programme’.
The centre was contemplating to provide Rs 260 crore for this initiative and reintroduce this feline in the wildlife sanctuaries of Madhya Pradesh. According to the environmental scientists, the less density of Nuradeshi and Palampur forests and abundance of prey were considered to be most suitable for the breeding of this spotted mammal.
Moreover, the state of Madhya Pradesh which due to its rich cultural past thrives on revenue collection from tourists will also be helped by the reintroduction of this extinct animal. Due to rampant poaching activities and climatic changes taking its toll, this imperial beauty is now on the verge of extinction. The last cheetah, in the country was recorded to have died in Chhattisgarh, with only a small population to be sadly found in Africa and Iran nowadays.
Cheetahs, said to be one of the fastest land animals have been regarded as ‘royal pets’ in the Indian subcontinent bred by known nobles and princes. Environmental scientists have been trying to understanding the attitudes and the perception of the people towards wildlife, the relative cost of relocating people to accommodate the wild, estimation of prey densities and way of expansion.
– OneWorld Foundation India