The cheetah could walk again - in Madhya Pradesh

September 22nd, 2009 - 1:32 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sanjay Sharma
Bhopal, Sep 22 (IANS) More than 60 years after the cheetah, the world’s fastest land animal, was wiped out from India due to unbridled hunting, hectic efforts are on in Madhya Pradesh to ensure that the first translocated cheetah is introduced in its Palpur Kuno park in Sheopur district.

The Palpur Kuno sanctuary was developed for the translocation of lions by the state’s forest department. Wildlife officials say once it gets the cheetah too, the park will be the only one to have all the big cats - tiger, leopard, lion and cheetah.

WildLife experts are meeting frequently to explore whether the world’s fastest land animal can be re-introduced in the park. The last of the species is said to have been killed in the jungles of Rewa in Madhya Pradesh. Though the smallest of the big cats, the cheetah can run faster than any other land animal at more than 100 km per hour.

Senior Wildlife Institute of India (WII) officials had earlier this month surveyed whether Palpur Kuno could be one of the several habitats where the cheetah can be translocated, either from Kenya, South Africa or Namibia.

“Deon Cilliers was engaged by the WII to study Palpur Kuno as a potential site for the reintroduction of the cheetah. He was in the park Sep 5 and 6. He also deliberated upon the habitat and availability of prey base, in case the animal is reintroduced here,” A.K. Chaturvedi, sub divisional officer, Kuno, told IANS.

Union Minister of State for Environment and Forest Jairam Ramesh, during his Sep 12 maiden visit to the state capital, has also indicated that Palpur Kuno could be one of the sites for translocating the sleek animal.

“If the cheetah is to be brought to Palpur Kuno, which is also the proposed second home for the Asiatic lion, it would perhaps be the only site in the world to have all the big cat species - lions, tigers, panthers and cheetahs - in the same habitat,” H.S. Pabla, state Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), told IANS.

Palpur Kuno, spread over 330 sq km, was developed for translocation of lions at a cost of Rs.25 crore.

Pabla said the presence of cheetahs would not affect the plan of bringing in lions “since they can easily coexist”. “The availability of ample open space is a must for the cheetah. More than 20 villages in Palpur Kuno were relocated to prepare the area for bringing in Asiatic Lions,” he added.

The sanctuary, home to tigers, panthers, wolves, monkeys, leopards and nilgai, is located about 120 km from Gwalior.

Initially, 344.686 sq km was set aside for a wildlife sanctuary in 1981. Later an additional 900 sq km was added as a buffer area.

WII researchers recommended the sanctuary as the most promising area to re-establish Asiatic lions and certified it as being ready to receive its first batch of translocated lions from the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat.

(Sanjay Sharma can be contacted at sanjay.s@ians.in)

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