The Asiatic cheetah once ruled that plains in India and the Middle East, but now its population is estimated to be 100 individuals or less. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Pursued by trophy hunters and herdsman, the Asiatic cheetah was brought to brink of extinction under the rule of the Raj and finally disappeared from India in the 1940s. Today, the species survives only in the remote grasslands of Iran but, if a conservation plan already in progress is a success, that may change.India's government has approved a plan to spend $600,000 on a cheetah reintroduction project. After months of research, conservationists have earmarked three areas that could serve as possible reintroduction sites: Kuno Palpur and Nauradehi in Madhya Pradesh and the Shahgarh area in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.
The areas, conservationists believe, could sustain as many as 80 cheetahs, which would be important from Iran, the Middle East, and Africa.
The cheetah is the only big cat that can be domesticated and used for hunting.
Doing so, however, will not be a simple matter. In the past, Iran has denied India's requests for cheetahs. Even if they secure healthy individuals, reintroduction efforts will be hampered by an eroded habitat and depleted prey base.
Increasing available habitat and prey populations will be essential, critics say, to minimize human-cheetah interaction and assure the success of the program.