Rajasthan may become new home for cheetahs


Prime VIP

Jaipur, June 30

Famous the world over for offering wide variety of wildlife at destinations like Ranthambore National Park and Keoladeo National Park, the desert state may soon turn into home for cheetahs, which the Union government is planning to introduce. The government plans to bring cheetahs to India from African countries.

During his recent visit to Jaipur, Union Minister of State for Forest and Environment Jairam Ramesh also spoke about the possibilities of bringing in cheetahs for introducing them in the country’s jungles. “The government may get cheetahs from Namibia, Kenya and other African countries. We have even received a verbal nod for relocation of the animal from these countries,” he said, adding that the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) is studying certain areas in states like Rajasthan, MP and Gujarat for identifying the most suitable habitat for re-introduction of cheetahs. The WII experts will submit their report in two to three weeks.

Rajasthan Minister of State for Forest and Environment Ram Lal Jat said the state had already identified belts conducive for rehabilitation of cheetahs in some parts of Jaisalmer district and was now awaiting a go-ahead from the Centre. He said the state government had made the preparations at its level and now it was up to the Centre to take a call whether it wanted to reintroduce cheetahs in Rajasthan or any other state.

Wildlife enthusiasts feel that Rajasthan is a strong contender to host cheetahs as the big cat needs large open areas to run at its average speed of 112 to 120 km per hour and the state offers abundant desert area for the same. Scientists from WII had recently surveyed areas like Shahgarh Bulge, Somu and Mokla in Jaisalmer to study the conditions. However, as the area identified in Rajasthan is along the Indo-Pak border, wildlife lovers have aired their apprehensions like scarcity of food and water problem, apart from housing the cheetah near the border. But, the experts who conducted the survey allayed all such fears, saying there would not be any problem, though they would have to seek the permission of the army.

The proposal to bring the cheetah back to India decades after it was declared extinct from the country was first mooted by the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment. Thereafter, a meeting of experts took place in Rajasthan to work out the nitty-gritty of the project. Later, the ministry had asked Rajasthan to draft a detailed roadmap for the Cheetah Reintroduction Project. The project was proposed by the Wildlife Trust of India.

The last documented sighting of cheetah in India was in 1947 when the Maharaja of Surguja in MP killed three during a hunting trip. The species was declared extinct in 1952. The cheetah is the only animal to have been declared extinct in India in the last 1,000 years.