It was a landmark moment – that will be etched in history – when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi released three of the eight Cheetahs — brought from Namibia — in the quarantine enclosures built in the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh on Saturday, which also marks the PM’s 72nd birthday.
Nearly seven decades after the world’s fastest cat went extinct in India, the country welcomed the first batch of eight Cheetahs. The big cats were flown by Chinook helicopter, the Indian Air Force chopper, into their new home Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh from Gwalior Air Force Station.
Earlier, the specially-designed tiger-faced passenger jumbo jet was used to bring the Cheetahs from the African country. The flight landed at Gwalior Air Force Station, where Union Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan greeted them.
The reintroduction of Cheetahs — five females and three males Cheetahs aged between two and six years — is being carried out under the Cheetah Project, a scheme approved by the Supreme Court in 2020. The government is trying to revitalise and diversify India’s fauna and flora with this scheme. The felines were brought under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between India and Namibia in July this year. India will sign another MoU with South Africa. After signing of the second MoU, another set of around 12 African Cheetahs would be transported to India.
Each Cheetah will be monitored by a dedicated team of volunteers and keep a watch on their movement. Satellite radio collars have been strapped on each animal for their geolocation updates.
Widespread hunting, shrinking habitat and food crunch were a deadly combo that caused the disappearance of the big cats in the country.
The last three Cheetahs in India were reportedly hunted by the Maharaja of Korea in modern Chhattisgarh back in 1947. India declared Cheetahs extinct from the wild in 1952.