Friday, July 30, 2010

Gujarat misses out on cheetah

Gujarat misses out on cheetah
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

The Wildlife Institute of India and Wildlife Trust of India have recommended Kuno Palpur as a possible site for reintroduction of cheetah. Banni Grasslands and Kutch Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat have lost in the race for reintroduction of cheetah.

The feasibility report on 'Assessing the Potential for Reintroducing the Cheetah in India', prepared by Dr Y V Jhala, a senior scientist at WII, and his team, was submitted to Jairam Ramesh, Union minister of state for environment and forests.

It has been decided that cheetah will be obtained from Iran, Namibia and South Africa. Initially, the Central government plans to bring 18 cheetah from the three countries.

The report says 10 sites in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were assessed for the purpose. "Kuno Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary, a part of the Sheopur-Shivprti forested landscape, had the second largest area (6,800 sq km) among the surveyed sites. This site is rated high on the priority list for considering the reintroduction of the cheetah, because several restorative investments have already been made here for introducing the Asiatic lions," says the report.

The protected area is estimated to have a current capacity to sustain 27 cheetahs, which could be enhanced to over 32 by addition of some more forest areas (120 sq km) to the Kuno sanctuary. Moreover, the report says that lion and cheetah reintroduction complements each other.

However, all may not be lost for Banni grasslands and Kutch Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat. "If Gujarat government takes serious steps to restore this landscape, the site could be re-evaluated at a later date," says the report.

The report says that the two sites cover a vast arid landscape of which over 5,800 sq km could be considered as potential cheetah habitat. The wild prey abundance was extremely low with no current potential for considering introduction of a large carnivore. However, the area has potential and with restoration, livestock grazing management and law enforcement, the area could bounce back and potentially support over 50 cheetah.

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