Cheetahs to return from Africa to India after SC nod

From Africa, with love: Cheetahs to return to India after SC nod

From Africa

Cheetahs were declared extinct in the country in 1952.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the introduction of African cheetah to a “carefully chosen location” in India, in a great boost to the country’s biodiversity.

India’s last spotted cheetah died in 1947. The animal was declared extinct in the country in 1952.

Giving its approval for the ambitious project by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant said a committee led by wildlife experts M K Ranjitsinh and Dhananjai Mohan, director of Wildlife Institute of India (WII), will supervise the introduction of the big cat.

Ranjitsinh, a former WII director, said the move will bring about great changes to the biodiversity of the country, besides tourism.

The top court modified a 2013 order, which had prohibited the move. It discarded apprehensions by amicus curiae A D N Rao that there will be a man-animal conflict if a suitable location was not chosen.

“In 2013, this court struck down an order by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEf) on the grounds that it had not conducted a detailed study for introducing foreign species cheetah to India; this application presumably remedied the defect,” the bench said.

The government, led by Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, said the African cheetah will be introduced on an experimental basis on a carefully chosen habitat. If the animal has difficulty adapting to the location, a more habitable place will be chosen.

The bench said, “It will not be desirable that this decision of introducing African cheetah is left to the sole discretion of NTCA. It shall be guided by a committee of experts who would carry out a survey for the best location and take a careful decision on the viability of doing so on a larger scale.”

In April 2013, the court had junked MoEF’s move to bring African cheetah from Namibia for their introduction at Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh by describing it as an “arbitrary, illegal and clear violation of statutory requirements” provided under the Wildlife Protection Act.

The NTCA made a fresh plea in 2019, saying the International Union for Conservation of Nature — which provides inputs to governments and institutions on biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development — did not object to the translocation.