Eight cheetahs from Namibia arrived in Gwalior on Saturday morning, according to PTI, which cited officials, seven decades after the feline species was declared extinct in India.
After a 10-hour flight, a Boeing plane carrying the cheetahs in wooden crates landed in Gwalior around 8 am. The cheetahs will then be flown to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh’s Sheopur district.
According to a PTI report, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is celebrating his 72nd birthday, will release three cheetahs into the park’s quarantine enclosures at 10:45 am.
A dais has been built in the park to house special cages containing cheetahs, and Modi will release three of them into an enclosure by pulling a lever. The authorities plan to release the remaining cheetahs in other enclosures.
Five female cheetahs travelling to India are aged two to five years, while three males are aged 4.5 to 5.5 years, according to a NDTV report, citing the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), a Namibia-based non-profit organisation.
The Indian government officially declared the cheetah extinct in 1952. According to The Indian Express, the species disappeared completely from the country in 1947 after Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo of the princely state of Koriya hunted and killed the last three recorded Asiatic cheetahs.
Project Cheetah is the title given to the initiative to bring Namibian cheetahs to India. However, according to several wildlife biologists, it will be difficult for the cheetahs to adapt to Indian conditions, owing to a lack of suitable habitat in size. Other predators in the central Indian jungles, such as feral dogs, will also threaten their extinction.