New Delhi: With the Supreme Court putting on hold the government's ambitious project to import the cheetah from Africa, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan on Wednesday said her ministry would respond after reading the court orders.

"The reintroduction of cheetah was cleared by the Union Cabinet and we will respond after reading the court orders," Natarajan told reporters here.

The first batch of cheetahs from Namibia was to reach India by mid-2012 and was to be reintroduced in Madhya Pradesh's Kuno Palpur wildlife sanctuary, 60 years after it was wiped out from the country. According to ministry officials, the Apex Court stay is likely to delay the Rs.300 crore project.

The Apex Court on Tuesday stopped the government from going ahead with the project following questions being raised that a "totally misconceived" venture was pushed without consulting the National Board for Wildlife (NBW) which is a statutory body for enforcement of wildlife laws and is headed by the Prime Minister.

The Environment Ministry in 2009 gave the go-ahead to drafting a detailed roadmap for the Cheetah Re-introduction Project, proposed by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), and endorsed by wildlife experts. The return of the cheetah would make India the only country in the world to host six of the world's eight large cats and the only one to have all the large cats of Asia.

In the past, India's last cheetah in the wild was said to have been shot in the Rewa area of Madhya Pradesh in the 1940s.The cheetah, the smallest of the big cats, can run faster than any other animal on land, at more than 100 km per hour.


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