Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Environment Minister wants cheetahs re-established in India

Minister makes cat calls, wants cheetah back in India

Published on Wed, Jul 08, 2009 at 02:51, Updated on Wed, Jul 08, 2009 at 15:59 in Sci-Tech section

New Delhi: It's been known for some time and now Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has made it official that tiger censuses conducted in the country in the past have been completely unreliable.

"All previous methods (of conducting tiger surveys) were faulty," he said in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

Wildlife experts have long questioned the age-old method of relying on pugmarks for the census.

The controversy caught on in 2005 when it was exposed that the Sariska Tiger Reserve - that claimed to have 15 tigers - didn't have one big cat.

To avoid false reporting, the system for counting tigers was changed last year to a more scientific method which pinned the country's tiger population at just 1400.

"We use various kinds of census methods. One of them is camera trap. Tigers have unique stripes, you can record and it tells you how many tigers," says environmentalist Y V Jhala.

Unveiling his plan to save the big cat, Ramesh also stressed on the need to have fast track courts to handle poaching cases and to involve the local people in tiger conservation.

But while the save the tiger campaign gets a boost, talks are also on to bring another big cat - the cheetah back into the country

"The only mammal that has become extinct in 1000 years is cheetah, we are trying to bring it back," he said.

"I believe that it's very complicated. Cheetah is a very fragile animal, needs lot of care. Plus needs it large stretches of grasslands. Most of the grasslands have been converted to agriculture, so where will the cheetah go?" wonders Valmik Thapar.

The Asiatic cheetah went extinct from India in 1967 due to poaching and habitat destruction.

But the big question is if India - where the number of tigers is going down drastically – is ready to receive a new big cat?


Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at

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