SC nod for Centre’s plea to introduce African cheetahs to India

The bench said the apex court will monitor the project and the committee will submit its report before it every four months. Photo: Wikimedia

Responding to a plea by the government, the Supreme Court on Tuesday (January 28) allowed the Centre to introduce the African cheetah to a suitable habitat in India on an experimental basis to see whether it can adapt to Indian conditions.

Stating that the rare Indian cheetah is almost extinct in the country, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had sought the court’s permission to relocate the African cheetah from Namibia.

The court set up a three-member committee, comprising former director of Wildlife of India Ranjit Singh, DG of Wildlife of India Dhananjay Mohan, and DIG, Wildlife, Ministry of Environment and Forests to guide the NTCA in taking a decision on the matter.

A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant said the apex court will monitor the project and the committee will submit its report before it every four months.

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The court also said the decision for the relocation of the African cheetah will be taken after a proper survey and the action of introduction of the animal will be left to NTCA’s discretion. It also said NCTA will be guided by the committee of experts who will carry out a survey for the “carefully chosen location on viability of doing it on a larger scale.”

“In case of any difficulty, location would be changed to more habitable one,” the apex court said. It was submitted before the apex court that the African cheetah will be introduced on an experimental basis in the best suitable habitat to see whether it can adapt to Indian conditions.

The bench in its order noted that the apex court in 2013 had turned down the plea for relocation of African cheetah at Kunho National Park in Madhya Pradesh.

“We find that in 2013, this court struck down an order by MoEF on the ground that it had not conducted any detailed study for introducing foreign species of cheetah to India, this application presumably remedied the defect,” the bench said.

Advocate A D N Rao, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae, explained the reasons for resistance of the African cheetah in the Indian condition. However the bench, after hearing the former Wildlife of India director, said since it was a pilot project, there should not be any opposition.

Singh told the bench that African cheetah would be brought to the country on an experiment basis.

In 2018, the NTCA informed the Supreme Court that the International Union for Conservation of Nature has given approval for translocation of cheetahs in India from Namibia in Africa.

NTCA said IUCN, which provides inputs to governments and institutions on biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development, has stated it would co-operate with India in translocation of cheetahs.

NTCA told the court they have complied with IUCNs requirements for re-location of cheetahs here.

(With inputs from agencies)

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