Gandhinagar: India is prepared to bring back the cheetah, which became extinct 70 years ago, as the species’ protected areas have been restored, according to wildlife experts.
The country is in a condition where it is economically possible to restore lost heritage, Wildlife Institute of India (WWI) senior scientist Y V Jhala said at a session of the 13th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species and Wild Animals.
In January, the Supreme Court had allowed the government to introduce the African cheetah to a suitable habitat in the country on an experimental basis to see whether it can adapt to Indian conditions.
Stating that the rare Indian cheetah is almost extinct in the country, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had sought the court’s permission to relocate the African cheetah from Namibia.
“The main cause behind losing the cheetah has been historical hunting coupled with population growth with loss of the prime habitat of cheetahs to agriculture,” Jhala said at the session hosted by the Wildlife Conservation Society.
“Now that India is in a condition where it is economically possible to restore our lost heritage, we have restored all the protected areas where cheetahs can be brought back to,” said Jhala, who also heads the WWI’s tiger team.
Restorative ecology is a global norm and “we try to get back what we have lost”, he said.
Historical threats in protected areas have been negated and it is time to consider bringing back the cheetah to the subcontinent, Jhala said.
“With economic means, political will..., the government’s initiative to bring the cheetahs is strengthened further,” he said.
Inspector General of Forests at the Union Forest Ministry Soumitra Dasgupta said he was hopeful that the reintroduction of the cheetah in the subcontinent will take place soon.
“It is interesting to talk about a species that has had its downs and upcoming ups. It is a fantastic occasion and an opportunity for India to showcase some of the good deeds we have done in species conservation,” he said.
“We are proud that India has something for conservation of any species you name,” Dasgupta said.
Unfortunately, there is one species that “we have lost, that is the cheetah”, he said.
“We are hopeful that the introduction of the cheetah in the Indian subcontinent will take place soon. Under the instructions of the apex court, a committee comprising of an expert has been constituted.
“This committee will be working, suggesting and recommending introduction of the cheetah in India and the process will be taken forward by the National Tiger Conservation Authority,” Dasgupta said.