by Jennifer Hattam, Istanbul, Turkey on 10.14.09
Travel & Nature
After widespread hunting of both the cheetah and its prey, along with the converting of grassland habitat to farmland, caused the big cat to disappear from India nearly a century ago, the world's fastest land animal may once again start zipping around the country.
The Indian government announced last week that it had approved a detailed survey of seven sites selected by wildlife groups as potential homes for reintroduced cheetahs. According to the BBC, the sites include "national parks, sanctuaries, and other open areas" in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Chhattisgarh.
Over the next four months, the sites will be surveyed "to find out the state of the habitat, the number of prey, and prospects of man-animal conflict to finally determine whether they can accommodate the cheetah."
Cheetahs on the Brink of Extinction
If any are determined to have favorable conditions, the government will likely import some of the big cats from Africa, home to the vast majority of the world's 10,000 remaining cheetahs. The Asiatic cheetah is now found only in Iran, where it numbers fewer than 100 animals. Habitat loss and degradation, hunting, and urban development have brought cheetahs to the brink of extinction, with their worldwide population levels at just 10 percent of historic highs.
"The return of the cheetah would make India the only country in the world to host six of the world's eight large cats and the only one to have all the large cats of Asia," Dr. Ranjitsinh, the chairman of the Wildlife Trust of India told the BBC. "Big cat" species include tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, cheetahs, snow leopards, cougars, and clouded leopards.
Other conservationists, however, fear that reintroduced populations would not be viable without restoring habitat and populations of prey species. Via: "India agrees to cheetah survey," BBC NEWS
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org