Centre keen on captive breeding of cheetahs

Centre keen on captive breeding of cheetahs

'Importing' big cats

Participating in a debate in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, Ramesh said he planned to bring at least a pair of cheetahs from abroad for captive breeding. Presumably, once a cheetah cub is born, it will be released in the wild.

“The Centre is keen on captive breeding of cheetahs. We are working on it,” he said.
Iran is the only known habitat of Asiatic cheetah. Distributed over five habitats, there are 40 odd wild cheetahs in Iran.

Any attempt to bring the world’s fastest animal back on the Indian soil requires a formal request to the Iranian government through the official channel. The same route was tried in the late 1990s, when geneticists from Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad proposed the cloning of Indian cheetahs.

Since the cloning method was similar to the way Dolly the Sheep was created by Scottish scientists, the process required the import of cheetah tissues for extracting the DNA. An animal can be cloned only from the DNA.

Through the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), the scientists contacted the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), whose permission was necessary to formally approach Iran.

“We never received the official permission and could not pursue the cloning route,” S Shivaji, one of the CCMB team members, told Deccan Herald.

“While only tissue samples are required for cloning, for captive breeding, the MoEF needs to import a male and female animal,” Shivaji said.

Recently, two pairs of African Cheetahs were brought to the Junagarh zoo. “Since we have not handled cheetahs for a long time, African cheetahs will provide us with a learning ground. Our ultimate aim is to bring back Asiatic cheetahs in India,” B R Sharma, member-secretary of the Central Zoo Authority said.

The Asiatic cheetah is now known as the Iranian cheetah, as the world’s last few are surviving in Iran, although there are rare sightings in south western Pakistan and on the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan border.

Indian cheetahs went extinct during the colonial period. The royalty used to keep a large number of cheetahs in their private zoo for hunting purpose. Sharma said that a clear transfer protocol and permission from the MEA are mandatory before even approaching Tehran with the official request.     
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