As part of the effort to restore the wildlife last seen in the country since 1952, the first batch of eight radio-collared African cheetahs have arrived at Kuno National Park, Central Indian, after journeying for about 8,000 kilometers from the Savannah African country of Namibia.
The cheetahs- five males and three males- arrived after a two-day airplane and helicopter journey from Namibia and are expected to first spend at least three months in a two square miles enclose inside the park in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, before being moved to a more spacious 2,000 square miles of forest and grassland, where they will share the landscape with leopards, slot bears, and striped hyenas.
Why the movement of the wild cats?
According to SP Yadav of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the extinction of cheetahs in India some 70years ago was the only time the country lost a large mammal species since it gained independence. “It is our moral and ethical responsibility to bring it back”, he said.
The arrival of the big cats also coincides with the 72nd birthday of India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
Modi said bringing back the cheetah is India’s endeavor toward environment and wildlife conservation.
Who is sponsoring the project?
The 11.4 million dollars (910million Indian rupees) project largely financed by the state-owned India oil is the first time wild cheetahs would be moved across the continent to be released.
The project has however raised questions from scientists and criticism from some conservationists who say the government should do more to protect the country’s own struggling wildlife.
Some Indian conservation experts described the efforts as a “vanity project” that ignores the fact that African cheetah- a sub-species similar but separate from the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah now only found in Iran- is not native to the Indian subcontinent.
Another batch of 12 cheetahs are expected from South Africa next month as the Indian government hopes to eventually grow the population of the land’s fastest animal to around 40 cats.