Cheetah, which became extinct from the country about seven decades back, may find a home in India if the Centre agrees to fund WII's Rs 260 crore project for reintroducing the feline in Nauradehi wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh's Sagar district.
If the project gets the nod, the spotted animal would be translocated here from Namibia in Africa.
"Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has found Nauradehi suitable for reintroduction of cheetah, which became extinct from India about seven decades back. Now, we have written to the Centre to fund the project as nearly 20-22 villages need to be shifted for the purpose," Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Wildlife, Narendra Kumar told PTI today.
"The cost of shifting these villages and for making other suitable arrangements, the forest department will need more than Rs 260 crore. Therefore, the state government has requested the Centre to bear the entire cost of reintroduction of cheetah in Nauradehi," Kumar said.
Dehradun-based WII experts found Nauradehi sanctuary, spread over an area of 1,200 sq kms, suitable for cheetah reintroduction following which the project has been prepared for cheetah reintroduction there, forest sources said.
Earlier, Cheetah, the fastest land animal, was planned to be translocated to the state's Palpur-Kuno wildlife sanctuary, spread over 344 sq kms area in Sheopur district.
But two years back, after the Supreme Court directed that the Asiatic Lions from Gir should be reintroduced in Palpur-Kuno first, a search for another place to reintroduce cheetah was launched, the sources said.
The state government was of the view that since the project was of the Centre, Ministry of Environment and Forest and National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) should bear its entire cost, they said.
Nauradehi has been found most suitable for the cheetah given that its forests are not dense to restrict the fast movement of the big cat. Besides, the prey base of cheetah is in abundance there, they said.
Former Union Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh conceived the cheetah reintroduction programme in 2009.
The last spotted mammal died at some place in Chhattisgarh way back in 1947 and five years later, cheetah was declared extinct in the country, sources added.