Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park on Saturday welcomed eight cheetahs from Namibia as part of a government’s project to reintroduce the feline in India after they became extinct here seven decades ago.
Three of the eight cheetahs were released into a special enclosure at the Kuno National Park by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is also celebrating his birthday today. He also took some photographs of the cheetahs after releasing them.
The eight cheetahs – five females and three males – will be kept in the quarantine enclosure for about a month before being released in the open forest areas of the park.
The Prime Minister termed “Project Cheetah”, the world’s first intercontinental translocation project, as the centre’s endeavour towards environment and wildlife conservation. He was accompanied by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
PM Modi said that the cheetahs, aged between two and five and a half, may take a few months to adapt to the new habitat. “The citizens will have to show patience, wait for a few months to see the cheetahs released in the Kuno National Park. Today, these cheetahs have come as our guests, unaware of this area. We have to give a few months to these cheetahs too to make Kuno National Park their home,” he said.
The cheetahs were brought to Gwalior from Namibia in a special cargo flight this morning and later flown to the Kuno National Park in two Indian Air Force helicopters.
India in the past was home to Asiatic cheetahs, but the species was declared extinct domestically by 1952. PM Modi said that it was unfortunate that no constructive efforts were made to reintroduce them in India for decades.
The cheetah is listed globally as “vulnerable” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. In North Africa and Asia it is “critically endangered”.