India halts plan to ship cheetahs from Africa

May 09, 2012
A picture taken on February 2, 2012, shows a cheetah at the Amneville zoo, eastern France. AFP PHOTO JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN

India's Supreme Court has halted a plan to re-introduce cheetahs to the country by shipping animals over from Africa after experts said the idea was "totally misconceived".

The environment ministry had cleared the $56 million project which involved moving African from Namibia to a wildlife sanctuary in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

But court-appointed adviser P.S. Narasimha said: "Studies show that African cheetahs and Asian cheetahs are completely different, both genetically and also in their characteristics."

He told the court Tuesday: "The African cheetah obviously never existed in India," adding that the International Union for (IUCN) clearly warned against the introduction of .

The Asiatic cheetah was once common on the plains of India but was hunted close to extinction during the British colonial era before disappearing in the 1950s.

About 100 are thought to survive in remote regions of Iran.

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