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Extinct for 60 years, Cheetahs to run again in Indian jungles

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New Delhi, Jan 28: The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave nod to the Centre's ambitious cheetah re-introduction project. The project initiated by the government in 2010 aimed to bring the cheetah, which became extinct from India's forests in 1952, back to the country.

A bench of Justices S A Bobde and B R Gavai wondered as how the court would know whether the Cheetah would survive after senior advocate Wasim Qadri, appearing for National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), said the sanctuary also has various animals like Tiger and Leopard.

Extinct for 60 years, Cheetahs to run again in Indian jungles

The top court, however, supported the move of NTCA and said that it was not against the policy to experiment relocating African Cheetah in Madhya Pradesh.

Supreme Court allows introduction of African Cheetahs in India

NTCA said all the potential sites found feasible for reintroducing Cheetah will be reassessed and an action plan will be developed for measures that are required, prior to the reintroduction.

The apex court set up a three-member committee, comprising former director Wildlife of India Ranjit Singh, DG of Wildlife of India Dhananjay Mohan, and DIG, Wildlife, Ministry of Environment and Forests to guide the NTCA in taking a decision on the issue.

India only country to host six of eight wild cats in the world

As per the court order, the African cheetah will be introduced on an experimental basis in the best suitable habitat to see whether it can adapt to Indian conditions. With the re-introduction of the cheetah would make India only country in the world to host six of world's eight large cats including lions, tigers, jaguars, panthers and leopards.

India's last spotted cheetah had died in 1947. In 1952, the animal was declared extinct in the country.

Revisiting Cheetah reintroduction in India

An expert panel formed by the government carried out extensive survey and research to locate ideal habitats for cheetah in India and zeroed in on three suitable habitats Kuno and Nauradehi wildlife sanctuaries in MP and Shahgarh area in Rajasthan. Velavadar National Park in Gujarat was also in the race.

The Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, spread over an area of 344 sq km, has the potential to hold populations of four of India's big cats; the Bengal tiger, Indian leopard, and Asiatic lion and cheetah, all four of which have co-existed in the same habitats historically for many years, before they were wiped out due to overhunting and habitat destruction.

NTCA said all the potential sites found feasible for reintroducing Cheetah will be reassessed and an action plan will be developed for measures that are required, prior to the reintroduction.

Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary to house African Cheetah?

In August the Supreme Court said that it was not against the ambitious project to relocate African Cheetah from Namibia to Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.

The authority further said that Madhya Pradesh government has written to it for Cheetah reintroduction at Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary.

According to WII, the MP forest department needs to reserve 700 sq km area for the imported cheetahs to dwell in the sanctuary, spread over 1,197 sq km. Besides, 20 villages located in the 700 sq km area for cheetah project in Nauradehi need to be evacuated.

A whopping Rs 264 crore would be needed to compensate around 2,640 families living in these villages.

Iran, the only country in the world to have a small population of Asiatic Cheetahs refused to send any to India, it was decided to introduce African Cheetahs to India instead.

With India's tiger success story, is it time to save other endangered species too

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which provides inputs to governments and institutions on biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development, has given no objection for the translocation.

Cheetah, a large cat of the subfamily Felinae, which runs at the speed of 110 to 120 km per hour, is now extinct in India.

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