The Supreme Court on Tuesday put on hold the central government’s ambitious project to import African Cheetahs from Namibia.
The environment ministry had given its permission to the Madhya Pradesh government to import nine cheetahs in different batches from Namibia for translocation into Kuno Palpur wildlife sanctuary at Sheopur where the last cheetah was hunted in 1950s.
Kuno Palpur sanctuary was developed in early 1990s to relocate Asiatic lions from Gir wildlife sanctuary in Gujarat. But the state government has been refusing to part with the lions calling them Gujarat’s pride. Following this, a PIL was filed by a wildlife biologist in the SC.
During the last hearing, the Gujarat government’s opposition to relocation took a new turn when it took the plea that the centre wants to first introduce cheetahs from Namibia and then lions. The petitioners opposed the Gujarat’s contention saying it could delay relocation of lions by years.
On this, the SC had sought views of the centre and amicus curiae PS Narasimha. Narasimha on Tuesday submitted a report in the court raising questions over the cheetah project. He described the project as reintroduction of a new species as the big cat from Africa was distinct from Asian cheetahs found in Indian forests till early 1950s. “Introduction of new species is not encouraged in wildlife conservation,” he said.
Narasimha also said the cheetah project was not cleared by the National Board for Wildlife. After hearing Narasimha and the petitioners, the court stalled the project and sought the centre’s reply on the report.
Narasimha’s report also spoke about lack of funds for conservation of many endangered species. The Centre has allocated R200 crore for the project.