Concern among a section of conservationists over a new move to “re-introduce” cheetahs in Rajasthan has been echoed by the former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, V. D. Sharma, here.
“The cheetah is alien to Rajasthan, so why introduce it here? They are using the word ‘re-introduction' but I would insist that this is going to be introduction of cheetah — as and when it takes place — in Rajasthan as it never existed here in the wild,” said Mr. Sharma, author and specialist on lesser cats, talking to The Hindu here.
‘Conserve tiger habitat'
“Is there any ecological gap or void which needs to be filled through introduction of the cheetah here?” he sought to know.
“We are planning to introduce an alien animal spending several hundreds of crores of rupees. The major concern is that introduction of cheetah is contemplated in basically tiger land. If there is money to spare, it should be for conserving the tiger habitats,” said Mr. Sharma who has had a long association with Rajasthan's tiger habitats as Chief Wildlife Warden in the past.
Mr. Sharma said Rajasthan has a long documented record of “shikars” (hunting expeditions) by the erstwhile rulers of Jaipur, Bikaner, Dungarpur and Jodhpur and others but there is no reference to cheetahs. “There is no record of shooting a cheetah anywhere in Rajasthan. The museums have no stuffed cheetah or preserved skin of this animal kept as trophies,” he added.
Of course former Rajasthan States, including Jaipur, had cheetahs as captive animals procured from abroad. “It was introduced as a hunting animal. Some of the captive cheetahs might have escaped to the wild and got killed. We don't hear about any cheetah population,” Mr. Sharma said.
Till the beginning of the 20th Century Rajasthan had vast stretches of grass-shrub land with presence of black bucks and chinkaras, ideal for the presence of cheetah. Yet there were none. “It never got extinct here as it never existed,” Mr. Sharma said.
Keywords: Rajasthan tiger habitats