Don’t book that ticket to Africa yet to see the fastest animal on Earth —the cheetah. It’s going to be coming from Namibia to Madhya Pradesh in the next one year.
The environment and forests ministry is set to clear the import of the African cheetah to Kuno Palpur, 210 km from Gwalior, despite reservations from some wildlife experts.
India saw the last cheetah in the wild shot dead 64 years ago in Sarguja, Chhattisgarh.
In all, three locations — two in MP and one in Rajasthan — are to get 18 cheetahs. A team of experts from Namibia, including Lorrie Marker, a cheetah conservationist, approved the landscape spread nearly 345 square kilometre for India’s most ambitious species-introduction project.
“Re-introduction of the cheetah in wild can protect our neglected grasslands,” said a top ministry official, while rejecting opposition from experts such as the director-general of forest, PJ Dalip Kumar, who believes the project would be ecologically unviable.
Wildlife biologist Faiyaz Khudsar points out that there won’t be enough prey in the area to support a sizable cheetah population.
But Marker and other experts involved in the project believe there are adequate ecological factors to support the wild cats.
Cheetahs have been relocated within Africa but not outside the continent, leading to apprehension whether the animal would adjust to the new climate and habitat.
But a recent study has shown that about 30,000 to 70,000 years ago cheetahs from Africa migrated to Asia creating a sub species — the Asiatic cheetah — before their rapid decline in the last century.
Apprehensions of transporting the cats by air were put to rest by MK Ranjit Sinh, former MP forest secretary, who said that flying for a few hours will make no difference to the animal. Tiger conservationist Valmik Thapar said that the environment ministry should put India's wildlife system in order first, before introducing new species.