Advocating the re-introduction of cheetah in Kuno Sanctuary of Madhya Pradesh (MP) the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has rejected the claim that lions and the extinct cat cannot co-exist in the same territory.
It has also sought vacation of May 8, 2012 Supreme Court (SC) stay to pave way for the implementation of its ambitious Rs 91.56 crore project to reintroduce the extinct cheetah.
The ministry's affidavit was filed pursuant to an SC order that raised apprehensions of cheetah's reintroduction especially in wake of the Centre's decision to move Gir lions from Gujarat to Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. It had even wondered if there was enough wild prey for cheetah to survive at Kuno. MoEF wants to import African cheetahs to Kuno.
Filed through advocate Wasim Qadri, the affidavit assured import of cheetah to Kuno would not delay or affect the lion reintroduction there. It said the cheetah and lions have historical coexistence in the Kuno range and that the sanctuary had "adequate wild prey to support wild carnivores."
The ministry would not incur cost on procuring cheetahs since Namibia is donating the cats. It denied that the allocation made to Project Tiger had been reduced due to cheetah reintroduction program. Around 85% of the cheetah reintroduction budget is earmarked for protection and for relocation of three villages in Kuno sanctuary.
According to the ministry a joint study by Wildlife Institute of India and Wildlife Trust of India had short listed MP as one of the three to reintroduce cheetah. Since Kuno's habitat status had improved owing to relocation of 24 villages, the ministry zeroed it in.
There were 16 species of cats in India, including the cheetah. The latter is the only cat species, which has become extinct in the country, leading to its reintroduction.