The first batch of eight cheetahs arrived from Namibia on September 17 – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 72nd birthday. The group contains five females and three males between two to six years of age. In total, at least 20 cheetahs will come in from South Africa and Namibia in a relocation attempt. This marks the first time that the world’s fastest cat will return to India in 70 years. Cheetahs were declared extinct in India in 1952.
The big cats will first go through a month long quarantine in an electrified enclosure that has 10 compartments. Post this, they will be able to roam free in the wild. A dedicated team of volunteers will monitor each cheetah’s movement closely, and the carnivores will have satellite radio collars to keep tabs on their geolocation. Veterinary doctors, three biologists and wildlife experts travelled with the cheetahs in their journey from Windhoek, Namibia, to India in a Boeing 747 plane. A helicopter then transferred the cheetahs from Gwalior to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh. PM Modi led the delegation that released them. The national park is 289 square miles in area, and boasts antelope and wild boars as prey for the cheetahs.
Experts say that a loss of habitat, food scarcity and hunting caused the cheetah to become extinct in India. It is the only predator to meet this fate post independence. Previously, a similar attempt to bring cheetahs into India from Iran failed in 1970 due to the deposition of the Shah of Iran.
Relocating animals is a tedious process, and there are concerns about the safety of these cheetahs. According to BBC, some worry that the leopard population in Kuno National Park could pose a threat to them. The cheetahs may also step outside the boundaries and get killed. However, experts are putting these worries to rest by assuring people that cheetahs are highly adaptable and that they have examined the national park thoroughly. The Prime Minister hailed the attempt an “endeavour towards environment and wildlife conservation.”
Project Cheetah is our endeavour towards environment and wildlife conservation. https://t.co/ZWnf3HqKfi
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 17, 2022