Cheetah re-introduction plan under discussion

Last Updated: Wed, Sep 09, 2009 07:02 hrs

Cheetah experts from across the globe are meeting in Gajner in Rajasthan from Wednesday to explore whether the world's fastest land animal can be re-introduced in India, more than 60 years after they were wiped out in this country.

Well-known cheetah experts Stephen O'Brien and Laurie Marker are among some 30 scientists participating in the two-day conference inaugurated by Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh.

Sources said countries like Namibia in Africa may be requested to send cheetahs to India.

The conference will deliberate on a range of issues such as biological, ecological and security factors, which will be crucial for the survival of cheetah in India, an official said requesting anonymity.

According to sources, a senior scientist of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) had surveyed three to four places in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh for cheetah re-introduction. The details will be presented at the conference.

The Gajner forest near Bikaner, some 450 km from Delhi, is reportedly one of the sites under consideration.

An official told IANS that the Rajasthan forest department would also make a presentation on whether the state has habitat suitable for cheetahs.

Experts say it will be relatively easier to get cheetahs from Africa, where there are many of them. There had been an earlier proposal to import them from Iran due to the shorter distance, but there are not many cheetahs left in the wild in Iran.

In the past, India's last cheetah in the wild was said to have been shot in the Reva area of Madhya Pradesh in the 1940s.

The cheetah, the smallest of the big cats, can run faster than any other animal on land, more than 100 km per hour.

Laurie Marker founded the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in 1990. She began her research in Namibia in 1977 and is recognized as one of the world's leading experts on cheetahs.

Stephen O'Brien has done pioneering studies on genetic science and authored the book 'Tears of the Cheetah: And Other Tales from the Genetic Frontlines'.

The Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), an NGO, is helping the government in the cheetah re-introduction project.

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