‘Not foreign’: Govt seeks Supreme Court nod to re-introduce cheetah in India
The SC had noted the government must give priority to protect Asiatic lions, an endangered species, and to provide them a second home. However, the court had not closed the doors for re-introduction of cheetahs.environment Updated: Aug 11, 2017 23:36 IST
The NDA government has undertaken the project to re-introduce cheetahs in India for which they have sought the Supreme Court’s approval.
In an application filed before the top court, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has asked it to clarify its 2013 order, which had then quashed a notification issued by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change to introduce African cheetah at the Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.
The SC had noted the government must give priority to protect Asiatic lions, an endangered species, and to provide them a second home. However, the court had not closed the doors for re-introduction of cheetahs.
Rather, it had asked the government to do a detailed scientific study because objections were raised against the import of foreign species that never existed in India.
Armed with surveys and field researches, the government now wants the top court to clarify the 2013 order. Despite reports favouring the Centre’s re-introduction programme, the states have showed reluctance owing to the court order, the NTCA said in its application, filed by advocate Wasim Qadri.
Tracing the creature’s history, the government said it was incorrect to suggest that cheetah is a foreign animal. Several parts of northern India under the Mughal empire had habitats occupied by cheetahs.
Suitable sites have been identified by the Wildlife Institute of India, the government said. These include Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary and Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, and Shahgarh area in Rajasthan.
Kuno was found most appropriate, considering its feasibility on account of its improved habitat status owing to relocation of 24 villages. The three sites continue to be monitored by the Wildlife Institute of India. More sites can be examined if the court permits, the application said.
Apart from the states’ reluctance, agencies in South Africa, which were donating the cheetah for reintroduction and were to train personnel, also interpret the judgment as a blanket ban on re-introduction of cheetahs in India. This is hindering the government’s efforts to bring back the “mammalian species” that would significantly contribute in the conservation of neglected grasslands and open forests.