Hyderabad: Scientists from the Centre of Molecular Biology (CCMB) welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to greenlight the Central government’s plan to introduce the African cheetah in suitable parts of the country. The National Tiger Conservatory Auth-ority (NTCA) had made this proposal in light of the fact that the Indian cheetah was almost extinct.
It may be noted that for over 15 years, CCMB’s Laboratory for Conserva-tion of Endangered Species (LaCONES) has been trying to clone the Indian cheetah. However, it has been unsuccessful due to lack of population in captivity within the country needed for biological material.
The efforts hit a bigger roadblock when Iran refused to export the Asiatic cheetah to India.
Senior principal scientist Vasudevan Karthikeyan, in-charge of LaCONES, agreed that efforts to clone the Indian cheetah have proven unsuccessful.
“If we had original animal samples to work with, we could have gone ahead. We tried with the next best thing, a close relative species (Asiatic cheetah in Iran) but it didn’t work out either,” he said.
Mr Karthikeyan said that in spite of the imminent introduction of the African cheetah, work on building knowledge and resources on the Indian cheetah would continue as usual. “It is always best to have original indigenous animal,” he said.
SC move bold, says CCMB
LaCONES’ senior principal scientist Vasu-devan Karthikeyan said, “Our work will continue since it involves conservation of many species, not just the cheetah.”
The scientist said that their work shouldn’t be looked at as a failure. “Over the years, through our efforts on cheetah and other animals, we have accumulated a lot of knowledge and experience. In fact, people have lost their lives during this work,” he said.
Dr Karthikeyan, however, added that the move to introduce a foreign animal was a “bold one” and needs to be done with caution.
Meanwhile, Congress leader and former environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, tweeted in support to the Supreme Court’s greenlight.
He recalled that he had proposed the initiative 10 years ago and urged the present government to implement it soon. His initiative had been stayed by the Supreme Court based on a petition by some environmentalists.
“Delighted that the Supreme Court has just given OK to reintroducing cheetah from Namibia. This was something I had initiated 10 years ago. Cheetah which derives from the Sanskrit ‘chitra’ (speckled) is the only mammal hunted to extinction in modern India.
It is said that the African and Indian cheetahs branched out as separate species about 60,000 years ago....