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India rewrites history with cheetahs arrival, PM Modi to release them in MP’s Kuno National Park

Cheetahs Arrival: India on Saturday morning welcomed eight cheetahs under an agreement signed earlier this year between India and Namibia. A tiger-faced B747 Jumbo jet was used to ferry eight cheetahs from Namibia, who will be introduced into the Indian wildlife by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his birthday.

PM Modi will release the large cats in Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno-Palpur National Park (KPNP) shortly. This project is part of the prime minister’s efforts to revitalise and diversify the country’s wildlife and habitat, PMO said in a statement.

The national park will welcome eight big cats, including a female cheetah and two brothers who hunt together as a team in what is the world’s biggest wildlife translocation project at around 10:40 am. While the females are aged between two and five years, the male cheetahs are 4.5 years and 5.5 years old.

These cheetahs were selected based on an assessment of health, wild disposition, hunting skills and ability to contribute genetics that will result in a strong founder population.

A tiger-faced plane, fitted with special cages that allowed access to the veterinary staff assisting in the translocation project, will land in Jaipur shortly and the cheetahs will arrive at the Kuno National Park in the Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh via helicopter.

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The ‘African Cheetah Introduction Project in India’ was first conceived in 2009 and a plan was made to introduce the big cat by November last year in the national park. However, the project was delayed due to the Covid pandemic and the successive lockdowns, according to officials.

The Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh was chosen as the optimum location to introduce the extinct animal for its good prey base for Cheetahs. The park has a good population of Chinkara, Spotted Deer, and Blackbuck, on which the Cheetahs can prey and grow in the wild. Here, facilities for the big cats have been developed, staff have been trained, and larger predators have been moved away.

The Asiatic cheetah was declared extinct in India in 1952 after Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo shot the last offspring of the species in 1947. After the species went extinct in the country, India made a commitment to return cheetahs to several locations within the nation, the first being Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.

Project Cheetah was approved by the Supreme Court of India in January 2020 as a pilot programme to reintroduce the species to India.

In July 2020, India and the Republic of Namibia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) around the conservation of cheetahs. The MoU includes Namibia’s participation in Project Cheetah, with the government agreeing to donate the first eight cheetahs to launch the programme. This is the first time that wild southern African cheetahs will be introduced to India, or in Asia, or on any other continent. It is truly the return of the cheetah.

 

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