The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the introduction into India of African Cheetah, as a pilot project, on a carefully chosen location which suits its habitat and also examine if the animal could adapt to Indian conditions.
The court was hearing a plea by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) stating that the Indian Cheetah has become extinct, and seeking the court's permission to relocate the African Cheetah from Namibia.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, modifying an earlier order, said the cheetahs from Namibia could be introduced in Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh, or any other part of the country following a detailed study on the all the aspects. "In case of any difficulty, a habitable location would be found," said the court.
The apex court also sought a progress report every four months from an expert panel on reintroduction of Cheetah in India, as a pilot project.
After a tussle of nearly seven years, during which the apex court had declined to permit the introduction of the African Cheetah -- terming it a foreign species, the bench took the decision.
The apex court also constituted a three-member committee former Director, Wildlife India Ranjit Singh, Wildlife India DG Dhananjay Mohan, and the DIG, Wildlife, Ministry of Environment and Forests to guide the NTCA in taking a decision after conducting a thorough survey.
After this process, the introduction of the foreign species will be on the discretion of the NTCA.
In 2013, the top court had declined the plea seeking relocation of African Cheetah at Kuno National Park. "Kuno sanctuary is not a natural habitat for African Cheetah. Experts say no species be considered for introduction to a new habitat until the factors which limit its distribution and abundance in the native range have been studied and understood by competent ecologistsa, said the top court in its 2013 order.
Citing this order, the top court said this court struck down an order by MoEF, as it had not conducted a detailed study on the introduction of foreign species, "this application presumably remedied the defect".
Advocate A.D.N. Rao, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae, submitted the reasons behind raising objections of relocation of African Cheetah in the Indian condition.
In 2018, the NTCA informed the apex court it has secured approval from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for the relocation of cheetahs from Namibia. It contended that IUCN had extended its full cooperation on this project.
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