In a first, a batch of cheetahs will be translocated from South Africa to India in August this year after delays caused due to the Covid pandemic, Ministry officials announced on Tuesday.
Declared extinct 70 years ago, the first batch of five-six Cheetahs will be translocated from South Africa to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh. This is the first time that a trans-continental shifting of a large carnivore will take place.
“All the modalities for bringing the Cheetah have been completed and the agreement with South Africa is in place. Now the final clearance from Ministry of External Affairs is awaited. One of our teams is currently in South Africa,” said a senior official in the Environment Ministry on Tuesday.
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A team of experts from South Africa will arrive in India on June 15th, and visit the park to oversee the arrangements for the translocation.
The Ministry is coordinating with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) as well as the Wildlife Institute of India, which has been spearheading the project on behalf of the Indiangovernment.
The Cheetah is believed to have disappeared from the Indian landscape when the Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo of Koriya is believed to have hunted and shot the last three recorded Asiatic cheetahs in India in 1947. In 1952, the Indian Government declared the Cheetah extinct in the country.
The only large carnivore till date to have gone extinct in the country, due to a combination of hunting and loss of habitat, the plan to reintroduce the Cheetah in the country has been afoot for decades.
While plans to reintroduce the Cheetah to India have been afoot for decades, the current proposal was first floated in 2009. The plan was cleared by the Supreme Court in 2020. Of the six sites – Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve and Shergarh Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajasthan and , Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kuno National Park, Madhav National Park and Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh – which had been previously assessed in 2010, were re-assessed by WII, out of which Kuno was found to be ready for the Cheetah relocation.
WII experts have said that over the coming decades, 35-40 Cheetahs are likely to be translocated to sites across the country, once the first batch of African Cheetahs are able to acclimatise to Indian conditions.