Thursday, July 14, 2011

Jaisalmer: Endangered cheetahs get new home.

 | Jaipur, July 4,
It may have been the fastest animal on earth, but still it couldn't dodge the bullet. As a result, the famed cheetah became extinct from the forests of India.
Now efforts are on to re-introduce the wild cat and the Shahgarh area in Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan has been initially selected to house the cheetahs before they can be relocated to other parts of the country. Shahgarh was preferred over Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh because the desert was found to be a more suitable site, a forest department source said. A cheetah was last sighted in eastern Madhya Pradesh in 1947, but it was hunted down by the then ruler of Surguja. Five years hence, the big cat was declared extinct in the country.
But thanks to the efforts of the Union ministry of forests and environment, a decision was taken last year to re-introduce the cheetah. Initial plans were to bring the cheetah from Iran. However, it wanted a lion in exchange for a cheetah and India expressed its inability to do that. There are around 60 cheetahs of Asiatic origin to be found in Iran. This compelled cheetah experts to look elsewhere and countries such as South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Tanzania were targeted.
It was for this reason that Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh visited South Africa in April last year. However, some experts still feel India should continue to engage with Iran as the Iranian cheetahs are close relatives to the ones which used to be found in India. Rajasthan's principal wildlife warden R.N. Mehrotra said: "In view of Iran's reluctance to give us its cheetahs, we should go in for in-vitro fertilisation, using the eggs and sperms from the Iranian specie and putting them in the womb of an African female cheetah, which could then act as the surrogate mother."
A section of the elected representatives of Jaisalmer is understood to be against the idea of creating a cheetah sanctuary in Shahgarh in view of the various prohibitions which comes into effect on construction activities.
Once the area is turned into a sanctuary, the villagers falling inside the area would not be able to sell off their land. The environment ministry has now set up a five-member committee of experts to see that certain areas of Jaisalmer are excluded from the sanctuary. This would pave the way for a cheetah sanctuary in Shahgarh which would also include areas around Ghotaru and Asutar.
Wildlife expert Rajpal Singh, who is a member of the committee, said the sanctuary in the desert would help in preserving its flora and fauna, whose existence, he claimed, suffered a setback following the onset of the Indira Gandhi canal project.

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