Tuesday, May 08, 2012

SC puts cheetah project on hold

SC puts cheetah project on hold

The lion versus cheetah debate is in a limbo. The Supreme Court on Tuesday put on hold the Central government's ambitious project to import African Cheetah's from Namibia.

The environment ministry had given permission to the Madhya Pradesh government to import nine Cheetahs in different batches from Namibia for translocation in Kuno Palpur wildlife sanctuary in Sheopur district, where the last living cheetah was hunted in 1950s.
Kuno Palpur was originally developed in early 1990s for relocation of Asiatic lions from their only home in wild - the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat. But, the Gujarat government had been refusing to part with the lions terming them as pride of Gujarat, resulting in a public interest litigation in the apex court.

During the last hearing, the Gujarat government's opposition to relocation took a new turn when it took the plea that the Central government wants to first introduce Cheetahs from Namibia and then lions. The petitioners opposed Gujarat government's contention saying it can delay lion relocation by many years.

On this, the Supreme Court had sought views of the Central government and amicus (friend of the court) PS Narasimha.

Narasimha on Tuesday submitted a report to the court raising questions over the Cheetah project.

He described the Cheetah project as introduction of a new species. Now re-introduction of the big cat from Africa was distinct from Asian cheetahs found in Indian forests till early 1950s. "Introduction of new species is not encouraged in wildlife conservation," he told the court.

Narasimha also pointed out that the Cheetah project was not cleared by Prime Minister led National Board for Wildlife, the country's top decision making body on wildlife issues.

The amicus also raised a pertinent point on what was important for India --- lions or cheetah. And his report also spoke about lack of funds for conservation of many endangered species in India.

The Central government has allocated Rs. 200 crore for the project, of which Rs. 90 crore would have to be spent on relocation of the first batch of nine Cheetahs from Namibia. The environment ministry had last month given approval to Madhya Pradesh government to import the world's fastest animal.

After hearing Narisimha and the petitioners, the Supreme Court decided to stay the project and sought the Central government's reply on his report.

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