BSIP joins hands with ZSI to bat for bringing back cheetahs as imports from Africa

Kolkata: A joint study by the Birbal Sahni Institute of Paleosciences (BSIP) and Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has arrived at a conclusion that cheetahs, which had become extinct in the country from the early 1950s, can be imported from Africa.

The study, which will soon be published in an international journal, will surely be a shot in the arm for the Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change (MoEF & CC), which has been striving to reintroduce the African cheetahs in India for quite some time.

"We began working on this since 2014 and after a detailed study, we can argue that Indian cheetah was very similar to its African counterpart and hence the big cats can be imported from Africa. They can survive in India easily. We will soon publish our paper in an international journal and will accordingly write to the Centre, urging them to take up the matter," said Niraj Rai, senior scientist of the Lucknow-based BSIP.

The work has been carried out by Rai along with Mukesh Thakur of the Centre for DNA Taxonomy of ZSI, Kolkata and Late Lalji Singh, the former director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad. ZSI director Kailash Chandra has provided his guidance and assistance.

One of the two animal samples that were involved in the study dates back more than 150 years, while the other one was found in the Rewa area of Madhya Pradesh in the early 1950s, believed to be the country's last recorded big cat in the wild.

It may be mentioned that the centre's argument for reintroduction of the big cats is presently pending before the Supreme Court with the latter stating that the government must give priority to protect Asiatic lions, an endangered species and to provide them a second home.

The SC has also sought a detailed scientific study with objections being raised against import of a foreign species that never existed in India.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority had stated before the apex court that there is not much difference between the African and Asiatic subspecies of cheetah. The Iranian cheetah is genetically closest to the one that went extinct in India, but it is now difficult to get them from Iran due to their small population size. Therefore, India may bring cheetah from Africa, with a vast majority of the 7,100 cheetahs left in the world being there.

Next Story
Share it