Bhopal: The Madhya Pradesh forest department has written to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to revive the plan to reintroduce cheetahs in the state’s Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary.
The ambitious project, conceived in 2009, had hit a roadblock for want of funds.
The country’s last spotted feline died in Chhattisgarh in 1947. Later, the cheetah — which is the fastest land animal — was declared extinct in India in 1952.
“We have written a letter to the NTCA seeking revival of the cheetah reintroduction project in Nauradehi sanctuary located in MP’s Sagar district. We have sought its stand on the project,” MP’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Shahbaz Ahmad said.
The MP forest department would need finances from the Centre for the project, he said, adding that the NTCA, a statutory body under the Union environment ministry, had committed Rs 50 crore to the state for it in 2011.
The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) at Dehradun had prepared a Rs 260 crore cheetah re-introduction project around six years ago, wildlife activist Ajay Dubey said.
It was estimated that an amount of Rs 25 crore to Rs 30 crore would be needed to build an enclosure in an area of 150 sq km for the cheetahs in Nauradehi, he said.
The proposal was to put the felines in the enclosure with huge boundary walls before being released in the wild, he said.
Nauradehi was found to be the most suitable area for the cheetahs as its forests are not very dense to restrict the fast movement of the spotted cat, Dubey said.
Besides, the prey base for cheetahs is also in abundance at the sanctuary, he added.
As per the earlier action plan, around 20 cheetahs were to be trans-located to Nauradehi from Namibia in Africa.
The Namibia Cheetah Conservation Fund had then showed its willingness to donate the felines to India, Dubey said.
However, MP was not ready to finance the plan contending that it was the Centre’s project, officials had said earlier.
MP houses six major reserves for the tiger and is often called as the ‘tiger state’. Prominent among them are Bandhavgarh, Pench and Kanha tiger reserves.