Cheetahs from Namibia will soon have a new home in the forests of Central India. After almost seven years, the Supreme Court of India has lifted its stay on a proposal to introduce African cheetahs from Namibia into the Indian habitat on an experimental basis. With India’s own cheetahs vanishing, a plea for this had been filed by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), seeking permission to introduce the African cheetah.
Removing the stay, the Supreme Court Bench decided to set up a three-member committee, comprising former director Wildlife Institute of India Ranjit Singh, DG of Wildlife Institute of India Dhananjay Mohan, and DIG, Wildlife, Ministry of Environment and Forests, GOI to ensure NTCA take all necessary precautions while implementing this plan. The Supreme Court has directed to conduct a proper survey to identify the best possible habitat for the cheetahs. Every effort should be taken to ensure that they adapt to the Indian conditions. Chief Justice Bobde, speaking for the Bench, also directed the committee to file a progress report every four months. The committee would help, advice and monitor the NTCA on these issues. The action of the introduction of the animal would be left to the NTCA’s discretion.
In May 2012, the apex court of the country had stalled the plan to initiate the foreign cheetahs into the Palpur Kino sanctuary in the state of Madhya Pradesh fearing they may come into conflict with a parallel project to reintroduce lions into the same sanctuary. The court was also worried whether the African cheetahs would find the sanctuary a favourable climate as far as abundance of prey is concerned. However, on Tuesday, a Bench led by Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde gave the go ahead to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to take the plunge and bring the African cat to India.
Due to incessant hunting, the Asiatic cheetah was officially declared extinct from India in 1952. It is now only found in Iran, where there are thought to be about 50 left.
Hopefully, this new strategy to conserve threatened species and restore the ecosystem will help in bringing Asiatic cheetahs back to their natural habitat in India.