Cheetah to India

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"A panel of wildlife experts has picked three sites for the reintroduction of cheetahs into India, pencilling a cautious plan to restore an animal exterminated in the country by over-hunting more than 60 years ago.

The panel has identified the Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary and the Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, and the Shahghar landscape in Jaisalmer district on the international border for possible reintroduction of the cheetah.

The plan envisages that 18 North African cheetahs will be brought to the three protected areas after some restoration of the landscape and a further assessment. The cheetahs may be obtained from Iran, Namibia, or South Africa, according to the panel that included experts from the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun, and the Wildlife Trust of India.

The panel assessed ten sites representing seven landscapes across the country, examining available prey base there, before picking the three protected areas.

All three sites require preparation and investments for a reintroduction programme which will demand long-term commitment of political will, personnel, and resources from both the central and state governments, the panel said.The Kuno-Palpur sanctuary which is part of a forested landscape is estimated to have a current capacity to sustain 27 cheetahs which could be increased to 32 cheetahs by adding about 120-square kilometres of more forested area.

The Nauradehi sanctuary could currently hold 25 cheetahs, but if 23 human settlements in core area are relocated, it could hold over 50 cheetahs, according to the panel’s assessment. The Shahgarh landscape in Jaisalmer -- where cheetah could prey on chinkara -- could currently support 15 cheetahs. But improved habitat management could increase this to 40 cheetahs.

“The cheetah (reintroduction) would evoke a greater focus on the predicament of the much abused dry-land ecosystems and the need to manage them,” the panel said. It would also “enhance” tourism prospects at the three sites with a possible “cascading effect” to benefit local communities, it said.

The improved management of dry-land ecosystems, in turn, would benefit pastoralism in India which holds the world's largest population of livestock, the panel said.

Wildlife biologists in the country have in the past cautioned that cheetahs require vast open space, typically grasslands with prey. India’s last sighted wild cheetahs were shot dead in 1947.

Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh had earlier this year visited a cheetah breeding centre in South African to discuss the prospects of reintroducing cheetahs into India. Sections of Indian biologists had unsuccessfully tried to procure a cheetah from Iran a few years ago.

The panel has recommended that India should source cheetah from sites in Africa and try and establish collaboration with Iran to conserve the Iranian cheetah." 

 [Source:  The Telegraph dated 30th Aug, 2010]



Last Updated on Friday, 30 July 2010 23:36