The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the implementation of the Cheetah Reintroduction Programme by which the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had proposed to import the African large-sized feline to India.

A forest bench comprising justices K.S. Radhakrishan and C.K. Prasad restrained the government from going ahead with the Rs. 300 crore project in the wake of questions being raised that a “totally misconceived” venture was pushed without consulting that National Board for Wildlife (NBW) which is a statutory body for the enforcement of the wild life law.

The issue of relocating Cheetah from Namibia was raised during the hearing of the matter on reintroduction of Asiatic Lions from Gujarat’s Gir National Park and Sanctuary and surrounding areas to Palpur Kuno Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh pursuant to a decision taken by the NBW.

During its hearings, the bench was informed that the MoEF has decided to introduce African Cheetahs from Namibia into the same proposed habitat prompting senior advocate P.S. Narasimha, the amicus curiae in the case, to file an application seeking a stay on the implementation of the same.

Mr. Narasimha said the proposal for reintroduction of Cheetah “has not been either placed before the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife, nor has there been a considered decision taken in this regard”.

He stated in an application that “scientific studies show that the African Cheetahs and Asian Cheetahs are completely different, both genetically and also in their characteristics” and the reintroduction of Cheetah was also against the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines on translocation of wildlife species.

“In fact, the (IUCN) guidelines categorically warn against the introduction of alien or exotic species. The African Cheetah obviously never existed in India. Therefore, it is not case of intentional movement of an organism into a part of its native range,” the application stated.