New Delhi: Nearly 50 years after the cheetah
became extinct in the country, the Centre today approved three
suitable sites to be developed as habitats of the world`s
Giving a go-ahead to the ambitious plan, expected to be
realised in the next three-four years entailing an initial
cost of Rs 300 crore, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said
the cheetah`s presence would restore the fast disappearing and
neglected grassland ecosystem in the country.
Kuno Palpur and Nauradehi wildlife sanctuaries in Madhya
Pradesh and Shahgarh landscape in Jaisalmer in Rajasthan have
been zeroed in by the experts as most suitable sites for this
A detailed roadmap for the three identified sites,
proposed by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), and prepared by
Wildlife Institute of India (WII) was submitted today to the
Union Minister, who expressed confidence that funds would not
be a problem for the venture.
Maintaining that it was a positive step, Ramesh said he
would soon hold consultations with Rajasthan and Madhya
Pradesh to bring them on board over the issue.
WII expert Y V Jhala said at least Rs 100 crore each
would be required for the restoration of the three habitats,
where at least six cheetahs each could be brought in the first
phase from those bred in the Middle East or South Africa.
Rating Kuno Palpur wildlife sanctuary high on the
priority list as a lot of restorative investment has already
been made there for introducing the Asiatic lions, Jhala said
the protected areas have a current capacity to sustain 27
"The Nauradehi wildlife sanctuary (1,197 sq km) in Madhya
Pradesh, where 23 human settlements are present, will have to
be relocated. The site has the capacity to accommodate 50
cheetahs as a source population," he added.
The WII has identified Shahgarh landscape on the
international border in Jaisalmer in Rajasthan as a third
potential site, which is presently being used by about 80
seasonally-used human settlements.
"The return of the cheetah would make India the only
country in the world to host six of the world`s eight large
cats and the only one to have all the large cats of Asia.
"The effort would also ensure conservation action in
cheetah habitats in India, which so far, has been severely
lacking," M K Ranjitsinh from WTI said.
The cheetah, the smallest of the big cats, can run faster
than any other animal on land, at more than 100 km per hour.