Friday, August 29, 2014

'Consider Banni for cheetah relocation'

'Consider Banni for cheetah relocation'
The Times of India

The Centre has filed a petition in the apex court seeking review of its order dated April 14, 2013, directing translocation of Asiatic Lions to Kuno-Palpur in Madhya Pradesh. The review petition, however, only pertains to shifting cheetahs to India from Africa.

The Supreme Court in its order on translocation of lions had observed: "At this stage, in our view, the decision taken by the ministry of environment and forests for introduction of African cheetahs first to Kuno and then Asiatic lion, is arbitrary...a clear violation of the statutory requirements provided under the Wildlife Protection Act. The order of MoEF to introduce African Cheetahs into Kuno cannot stand in the eye of law and the same is quashed."

The MoEF, during the argument, had made reference to a study conducted by WII and Wildlife Trust of India on the programme to reintroduce cheetah in Kuno, on import from Namibia. The member of the Cheetah Reintroduction Group Divyabhanusinh Chavda said, "We have gone in for the review of the order only for the cheetah reintroduction part." He added that Rajasthan government had already refused for taking up the project.

The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has prepared a Rs 260-crore project for cheetah reintroduction. Nauradehi in MP, along with Banni in Gujarat, are some of the areas under consideration if the Supreme Court permits the import.

A Gujarat forest official said that cheetahs need open spaces. "They are comfortable in grasslands and Banni seems to be the best suited place in Gujarat. Besides, it also includes the Kalo Dungar area, which has a good number of jackals," added an official.

At present, Banni has a prey base of 14 animals per sq km. If the government decides to give cheetahs to Gujarat, the forest department would immediately start breeding chital and sambhar deers in the area to increase the prey base, an official said. Cheetahs need a prey base of around 30 animals per sq km.

On the other hand, a Cheetah Reintroduction Group official said that the main hindrance in Banni was the weed called gando baval (Prosopis Juliflora) which covers large parts of the area. Removing the weed would be a major challenge for Gujarat, he added.

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