Gajner, Rajasthan: The cheetah is perhaps the only animal to have gone extinct since independence. Now the Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has promised to bring the cheetah back to India 40 years after it went extinct. Preliminary meetings suggest that state governments are reluctant to set aside land for the cheetah.
"The only mammal to go extinct since independence in India is cheetah. We plan to bring the cheetah back in India," said Ramesh at the Parliament.
Less than two months since the announcement, hectic preparations are on to make this a reality. Wildlife biologists are already at work identifying possible sites for the release of African cheetahs in India.
"Kutch in Gujarat is the most promising area with 9000 sq kms. We can have 20-30 cheetahs over there," said wildlife scientist, Y V Jhala.
However, given India's poor track record in protecting its the Indian tiger, is it a good idea to bring in the cheetah? At the meeting organised by the Ministry of Environment and Forest and Wildlife Trust of India, state governments showed apprehension.
"I don't think it's a wise idea," said Chief Wildlife Warden, Rajasthan, R N Mehrotra.
International cheetah experts are more optimistic. They believe the cheetah will serve as a flagship species for conserving vast tracts of grassland which have so far not been protected adequately.
"50 per cent of people stay in cities and as more and more people move to the cities, we can use the land that they leave behind and regenerate it to sustain wildlife and especially cheetah," said Cheetah Expert, Namibia, Laurie Marker.
If the state governments do agree then 5-10 cheetahs will be brought in from Africa, put in semi-wild enclosures. Once acclimatised they will be released into the wild, to hunt animals like the blackbuck and the chinkara.
It's vegetations that the blackbuck and chinkara feed on which in turn will be food for the cheetah, but the question is will India have enough land for the fastest animal on planet earth?