Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be releasing eight cheetahs, in Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park on Saturday, which have been brought from Namibia. A customised Boeing 747-400 aircraft carrying the eight cheetahs from Namibia’s capital Windhoek landed at the Gwalior airport in Madhya Pradesh around 7.50 am. Eight cheetahs — five females and three males, aged between two and six years, are African Cheetahs. The cheetahs indigenous to India that went extinct were Asiatic Cheetahs and are only found in Iran.
Cheetahs are the fastest land animals in the world, capable of reaching speeds of 70 miles (113 km) per hour. The cheetah is the only large mammal to become extinct in the country since its independence from British rule. The last cheetah was killed in the Koriya district of Chhattisgarh in 1947.
India’s Cheetah history
Studies show that cheetahs formerly shared jungles with other big cats like lions and tigers but disappeared 70 years ago. Cheetahs were recorded extensively through the Mughal period. The Mughals also used cheetahs in their hunts.
In colonial India, hunting cheetahs turned into a sport, which led to its extinction, as per experts. Around 200 cheetahs were killed in India, largely by sheep and goat herders, during the colonial period as they would enter villages and kill livestock. Some of them were eliminated during extensive hunting.
In 1952, the Indian government officially declared the cheetah extinct in the country. And since then, it has been making efforts to reintroduce cheetahs. There was an unsuccessful effort in the 1970s when the Shah of Iran turned down the negotiations with the Indian government. Attempts to bring cheetahs to the country were revived once more in 2009. Ten sites were surveyed between 2010 and 2012. Later, the Narendra Modi government signed a pact with Namibia in July this year for the re-introduction of cheetahs
The Kuno Palpur National Park
The national park is spread over 748 square kilometres in the vast forest landscape of Madhya Pradesh, and doesn’t have any human settlements. The region is reportedly very close to the Sal forests of Koriya, where the native Asiatic Cheetahs were found before they got extinct 70 years ago.
The site was the most preferred habitat based on the assessment carried out by the Wildlife Institute of India and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). The park was assessed on its climatic variables, prey densities, the population of competing predators, and historical range.
(With agency inputs)
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