Prime Minister Narendra Modi formally began Project Cheetah on Saturday, September 17, as he released three of the eight cheetahs brought from Namibia. The Indian Prime Minister is also celebrating his 72nd birthday on Saturday and it was his first agenda of the day on his schedule.
Five female and three male cheetahs have been brought to India as part of Project Cheetah, which aims to reintroduce almost 50 felines of the species across India in the next five years. The cheetahs which were released at the Kuno National Park on Saturday will be kept in quarantine for a month before they are released permanently in the wild.
Watch the video of PM Modi releasing the cheetahs here:
India was home to Asiatic cheetahs for a long time, however, the species was declared extinct in the country in 1952. The history of Indian cheetahs dates back several centuries and according to historians, the Mughal rulers took the majestic creatures with them during hunts.
The last recorded Indian cheetahs were killed by Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo of Koriya, Surguja, of present-day Chattisgarh, in 1947. India declared cheetahs became extinct in the country in 1952, two years after the birth of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, according to wildlife historian Raza Kazmi, he spotted a cheetah in 1975 in Jharkhand, but the claim has not been verified.
Biologists have warned that the reintroduction of African cheetahs in Indian jungles will be challenging for the new residents, who will find it difficult to get used to Indian conditions, majorly because of the lack of suitable habitats. According to these scientists, the Namibian cheetahs will also be susceptible to attacks from other predators, like feral dogs.
However, officials at the Kuno National Park have confirmed that larger predators have been moved elsewhere ahead of the release. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has also said that the cheetahs will have GPS collars to track their movement and a dedicated team to keep track of them.