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India halts plan to ship cheetahs from Africa

NEW DELHI — 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 agency Agence France-Press reported.

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

But a court-appointed adviser, identified by local reports as PS Narasimha, said: "Studies show that African cheetahs and Asian cheetahs are completely different, both genetically and also in their characteristics."

According to a report in the Daily Pioneer, the adviser added: “The introduction of alien or exotic species is universally shunned by wildlife experts.”

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

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