Endangered Namibian cheetahs have arrived in India



CNN

After disappearing from India more than 70 years ago, cheetahs are returning to the country under a new reintroduction program.

Eight cheetahs arrived in India from Namibia on Saturday, reports said A tweet from the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF). The big cats were released in India’s Kuno National Park in Madya Pradesh state.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was there to welcome the cheetahs to their new home. “The long wait is over,” Modi he wrote on Twitter along with photos of the cats in their new environment.

Today, they are found in southern and eastern Africa, mainly in Namibia, Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania, according to the WWF.

But endangered cats had a much larger range. Historically, cheetahs ranged throughout the Middle East and central India, as well as most of sub-Saharan Africa. Habitat loss, hunting and conflicts with humans have greatly reduced their populations.

Fewer than 7,000 cheetahs remain in the wild today, says the WWF. In Iran, there are only 12 adult cheetahs left in the wild.

The release of the eight animals is part of a larger plan to reintroduce the cats to their former range. In January, India’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change announced in a news release that the government plans to release 50 cheetahs in India’s national parks over the next five years.

The group that arrived in Kunora consists of three adult male and five female Namibian cheetahs, according to a CCF statement. Each cheetah was vaccinated, satellite collared and kept in isolation in Otjiwarongo, Namibia, according to the release.

The animals chosen for the 11-hour trek are “based on an evaluation of health, wildness, hunting skills and the contribution of genetics that will produce a strong breeder population,” the organization says.

It took a multi-step journey to bring the cats from Namibia, on the southwest coast of Africa, to central India. On Friday, the cheetahs moved from CCF’s center to Hosea Kuta International Airport in Windhoek, Namibia. They then took a private jet to Jaipur, India. Finally, on Saturday the cats were taken to Kuno National Park and released to their new home.

“As a conservationist, I am thrilled, and as CCF’s leader, I am exceptionally proud of the work of our CCF reintroduction team,” CCF Founder and Executive Director Laurie Marker said in a statement. “Without the research and dedication to cheetah conservation, this project would not be possible.”

Jhala Yadvendradev, dean of the Wildlife Institute of India and chief scientist of India’s Project Cheetah, said the project will benefit India’s ecosystem as a whole, not just cheetahs.

“The return of a top predator restores the historical evolutionary balance, triggering cascading effects to better manage and restore wildlife habitat for the benefit of all species, and will improve the livelihoods of poor forest-dwelling communities,” Yadvendradev said in the statement. .