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India hopes to reintroduce cheetah 60 years after extinction

India hopes to reintroduce the world’s fastest land animal some 60 years after it went extinct in the country, reports The Independent.

India’s Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said the government has commissioned a study to determine whether it is possible to reintroduce the cheetah into India by importing pairs from Namibia.

“The cheetah is the only animal to have been declared extinct in India in the last 1,000 years,” he told Indian parliament this week. “We have to get them from abroad to repopulate the species here.”

Female Asiatic cheetah captured with a remote camera in Iran in 2007. Photo courtesy I.R.Iran DOE/CACP/WCS/ UNDP-GEF

The last documented sighting of cheetah in India was in 1947 when the Maharaja of Surguja, ruler of a state in what is now eastern Madhya Pradesh, killed three during a hunting trip. The species was declared extinct in 1952.

Cheetah once ranged widely across Africa and Asia but have suffered from human encroachment on their habitat, loss of prey, and hunting. Today there are thought to be less than 100 Asiatic cheetah remaining, all in Iran.

Reintroducing cheetah in India will be a challenge due to intense competition for land and human-wildlife conflict. Populations of India’s other big cats — tigers, lions, and leopard — have declined dramatically over the past 100 years.

Andrew Buncombe. To be spotted again: India wants to bring back the cheetah. The Independent 9 July 2009

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