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Cheetahs to run again in India

Deccan Herald, New Delhi, 2nd August, 2010
Trail-blazing cheetahs are all set to run again in India as the Union Environment Ministry has given “in-principle” approval to develop three sites as habitats for the world’s fastest animal.
In a Rs 300-crore pilot project, 18 cheetahs will be brought from Iran, South Africa and Namibia, all of which have shown their willingness to give the animal to India.
An assessment by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) has recommended that cheetahs could potentially be reintroduced at Kuno-Palpur and Nauradehi sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh and Shahgarh in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.
The last documented sighting occurred in 1947 when the king of Sarguja––a small princely state which is now in Chhattisgarh––killed three cheetahs during a hunting trip.
In 1952, the government announced the extinction of cheetahs in the country. This is possibly the only large animal that became extinct in India in recent times.
The two institutes, which submitted their feasibility study to Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday, said all the sites require preparation and long-term investment. The WII and WTI surveyed seven landscapes before zeroing in on these three sites, official sources said.
Once brought, these animals are likely to be introduced first in Kuno-Palpur where preparatory works have already been undertaken for the introduction of the Asiatic lions.
The 6,800 sq km sanctuary can sustain 27 cheetahs, which could be enhanced to over 32 by adding some more forested areas (120 sq km) to the Kuno Sanctuary and managing the surroundings.
The Nauradehi Sanctuary (1,197 sq km) in MP can support 25 cheetahs and if 23 villages from the core area can be relocated, the sanctuary could house as many as 70 animals.
The Shahgarh landscape on the international border in Jaisalmer was found to be suitable to have 15 cheetahs initially that could be increased to 40 by habitat management. However, since the area has seasonally used human settlements, they will have to be relocated with adequate and generous compensation and alternate arrangements have to be provided.