Prime Minister Narendra Modi will release eight Namibian cheetahs in Kuno National Park on Saturday, September 17, as part of his 72nd birthday celebrations. Indian cheetahs became extinct in 1952, seven years after the country’s Independence and two years after the Prime Minister was born.

However, Project Cheetah, a conservation project that was approved by the Supreme Court in early 2020, aims to reintroduce the big cats to India once again. The eight cheetahs that the Prime Minister will release in Kuno National Park of Madhya Pradesh on his birthday, have been brought from Namibia with the help of the University of Pretoria. The animals will be kept in quarantine for a month before they are released permanently in the wild.

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Where is Kuno National Park?

The Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the biggest national parks in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The national park has an area of almost 350 square kilometres, spanned across the districts of Sheopur and Morena. The region is a part of the Khathiar-Gir dry deciduous forests and became a national park in 2018.

The Kuno National Park can be reached from Gwalior, which has the nearest airport from the three entrances to the sanctuary, Tiktoli, Ahera and Peepal Bawadi.

The Kuno National Park is home to several species of predators, including the Indian leopard, Indian wolf, golden jackal, jungle cat, striped hyena and more. According to biologists, the Namibian cheetahs will be facing struggles to get used to Indian conditions and will be susceptible to danger from other predators, including feral dogs.

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The Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary was created in 1981 and has been subject to the implementation of the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project, similar to Project Cheetah.

The national park is also known widely as the home of as many as 129 bird species, including the Indian white-beaked vulture, crested-serpent eagle, white-eyed buzzard, steppe eagle and short-eared owl. Many reptiles can also be found in the area, which includes Gharial, mugger crocodile and Bengal monitor.