Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park on Saturday welcomed eight cheetahs from Namibia as part of a government project to bring the cats back to India after they became extinct here seven decades ago.
Three of the eight cheetahs have been released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is also celebrating his birthday, into a special reserve in Kuno National Park. Wearing sunglasses and a hat, the Prime Minister also took pictures of the big cats after releasing them.
The eight cheetahs – five females and three males – will be kept in isolated enclosures for about a month before being released in the open woodland areas of the park.
The Prime Minister calls “Project Cheetah”, the world’s first transcontinental transit project for cheetahs, as his government’s effort towards the environment and wildlife conservation.
He was accompanied by Madhya Pradesh Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Environment and Forests Union Minister Bhupendra Yadav.
Prime Minister Modi said that cheetahs, between the ages of 2 and 5 and a half, can take several months to adjust to their new habitat. “People will have to show patience, waiting for several months to see the jaguars being released in Kuno National Park. Today, these jaguars have come as our guests, no. We don’t know anything about the area. We had to spend a few months on these jaguars also to make Kuno National Park their home,” he said.
He added: “India is sending a message to the whole world that economics and ecology are not areas of conflict.
The big cats were brought to Gwalior from Namibia in a special cargo flight this morning and then flown to Kuno National Park on two Indian Air Force helicopters.
India was in the past home to the Asian jaguar, but the species was declared extinct in the country in 1952. The jaguar became extinct in India mainly due to habitat loss and hunting. for their distinctive spotted skin.
Efforts to bring cheetahs to India picked up speed in 2020 when the Supreme Court ruled that the African cheetah, another subspecies, could be colonized in India at a “carefully selected locations” on a trial basis.