Eight African cheetahs are all set to move from Namibia into their new habitat at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh, September 17, on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday. The PM is expected to release the five female and three male cheetahs into the Park’s quarantine enclosures on Friday as part of his efforts to revitalise and diversify the country’s wildlife and habitat, his office has said.
The last cheetah in India died in 1947 in Korea district in present day Chhattisgarh, which was earlier part of Madhya Pradesh, and the species was declared extinct from India in 1952. According to reports, the cheetah has lost 90 percent of its global habitat in the last 100 years. In addition, in many of the 31 populations of the cheetah, only 100-200 are left with their habitat consistently deteriorating. The ‘African Cheetah Introduction Project in India‘ was conceived in 2009, with a plan to introduce the big cat by November last year in Kuno National Park, but it suffered a setback due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
How Will the Cheetahs be Brought to India:
The cheetahs will board a customised Boeing 747-400 aircraft from Namibia’s capital Windhoek and arrive in Gwalior after completing an overnight journey lasting 10 hours and traversing 8,000 kilometres. The felines will then be shifted from Gwalior to Kuno National Park (KNP) in an Indian Air Force (IAF) Chinook heavy-lift helicopter. The cheetahs, aged between four and six years, will not be tranquilised for the journey. They will be fed two-three days before the journey and will be accompanied in the aircraft by three veterinarians. The aircraft bringing the animals has been sourced from a UAE-based aircraft company by Action Aviation. It carries the image of a tiger on its nose.
Why is it Significant:
Dr Laurie Marker, who has been an advisor to the Indian government on the cheetah relocation project for over 12 years told that this is the first time that a trans-continental project like this is taking off. The cheetah has gone extinct in several countries due to human activity, so it is our responsibility to ensure that it is brought back and preserved. Of course, the ideal situation would be to conserve animals because re-introduction is a difficult and long process. But once an animal becomes extinct, this is the only way,” Dr Marker added.
Studies have shown that leopards have preyed on cheetahs in Africa, and similar fears are being expressed for Kuno as well, where around 50 leopards are housed around the same area. According to experts, cheetah is a very delicate animal, they avoid conflict but remain in the target of competing animals. In Kuno, cheetah cubs can be at great risk from leopards, hyenas, wolves, bears, and wild dogs. In 2013, a research on cheetahs found in Africa’s Kgalagadi Park showed that their cubs have only 36 percent chance of survival. Predatory animals are the main reason behind the death of their cubs.