3 sites in MP selected for hosting cheetah, officials to train in Africa
A Supreme Court-appointed committee has selected four possible sites - three in Madhya Pradesh and one in Rajasthan - for cheetah introduction in the wild even as MP forest department officials plan a visit to Africa to train themselves on handling the fastest animal on the planet.
"We found Kuno National Park, Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary and Gandhi Sagar-Chittorgarh in Madhya Pradesh and Bhainsrogarh Sanctuary in Rajasthan suitable for translocation of cheetahs because of an appropriate geophysical feature of forests. The areas are well protected and have well-managed grassland,” said Wildlife Institute Director Dhananjay Mohan, a member of the panel.
The top court in January 2020 gave its approval to introduce African cheetahs to a suitable habitat in India on an experimental basis. The cheetah was declared extinct from India in 1952.
The decision for relocation of the African cheetah, said the apex court, will be taken after a proper survey and the action of introduction of the animal will be left to the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s discretion. The cheetah will be introduced on an experimental basis in the best suitable habitat to see whether it can adapt to Indian conditions, the court had said.
Of the three sites in MP, the state forest department has selected Kuno and Nauradehi wildlife sanctuaries as they have good grassland, key for survival of cheetahs.
“Madhya Pradesh is planning to develop Kuno National Park in Sheopur and Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary spread in four districts of Bundelkhand of MP, for translocation of cheetah and the forest department is also preparing a special project ‘Cheetah’ to change the physical features of the forest, as suggested by the expert committee," said JS Chauhan, additional principal chief conservator of forest (APCCF), (wildlife).
MP forest department will send a team of forest officials to Africa to gain expertise about Cheetah and to learn management practice of habitat to the fastest land animal, said the officer.
Mohan said, “The geophysical feature of MP is suitable for Cheetah as the last Cheetah was seen in undivided MP in 1950s. India lost cheetahs at least 70 years ago. Nobody has any idea about cheetahs so it is necessary for forest officials to go and learn about the habitat of cheetahs."
Retired PCCF (wildlife) SK Mandal said, “The state government shouldn’t send a political person and only top officers for training in Africa. It should be vertical training. The government should send top officers to lower staff for training to make the project successful.”
The translocation of African Cheetah is a part of Government of India to reintroduce the fastest land animal in India after extinction of the Asiatic cheetah in the 1950s. The expert committee visited four sites in MP and one in Rajasthan to select the suitable habitat for Cheetah. In January first week, the committee submitted its report to the state government.
"On the basis of the suggestion of the report, the forest department will cut down more than 200 thorny trees in Kuno. The grassland will also be changed. Now, the department will replace tall grass with short grass. In Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary, prey base will be increased, said a second MP forest officer, not willing to be named.
In 2010, the central government set up an expert panel for reintroducing the cheetah in India. This panel recommended that the home of the fastest animal in the world could be Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh, Velavadar National Park in Gujarat and Tal Chapar sanctuary in Rajasthan. Kuno Palpur was also the place prepared by Madhya Pradesh to house Asiatic lions from Gujarat, till the latter refused to share its pride. Kuno Palpur was the preferred location for the introduction of the cheetah.
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