12 cheetahs to be flown in from South Africa today
Sources said Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia are expected to be present during their arrival.
After months of delay, 12 cheetahs from South Africa will finally arrive today in Madhya Pradesh
By Press Trust of India– Twelve cheetahs — five of them female — will be flown in from South Africa on Saturday, three years after India first mooted the idea. A Madhya Pradesh government official told PTI that Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan will release the cheetahs into their quarantine enclosures in the Kuno National Park, spread over 750 km in the state’s Chambal region.
Sources said Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia are expected to be present on the occasion, though confirmation of their presence is awaited.
Under the ambitious Cheetah reintroduction programme, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had released the first batch of eight spotted felines including five females — from Namibia into a quarantine enclosure at Kuno on his 72nd birthday on September 17 last year.
“A C-17 globemaster of the Indian Air Force (IAF) took off from the Hindon airport at 6 am on Thursday to bring the 12 cheetahs from South Africa,” National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) head S P Yadav told a press conference in New Delhi.
The cheetahs will embark on the journey to Kuno from the O R Tambo International Airport in Gauteng on Friday evening. The transport aircraft will land at the Gwalior Air Force base in Madhya Pradesh at 10 am on Saturday. The forward journey will be covered in the IAF’s MI-17 helicopters, he said.
“Chief Minister Chouhan and Union minister Yadav will release the cheetahs in the quarantine bomas at 11 am,” Ramesh Gupta, Madhya Pradesh’s head of forest force, told PTI in Bhopal.
The NTCA chief said 10 quarantine bomas have been created at Kuno for the 12 spotted felines.
“Based on the experience with the cheetahs from Namibia, we have improved the bomas. These are even better than those in Namibia and South Africa,” he said.
S P Yadav said that in South Africa, three of the cheetahs have been kept in Phinda quarantine boma in KwaZulu-Natal Province and nine in Rooiberg Quarantine boma in Limpopo Province.
The eight Namibian cheetahs are now in hunting enclosures — a six square km-area where they can interact with each other — before being released into the wild.
They are killing a prey every three-four days and are in good health, officials said.
One of the cheetahs was unwell as her creatinine levels had shot up. She has recovered after treatment, they said.
A consultative workshop involving international cheetah experts, scientists, veterinarians, and forest officials will be held on February 20 at Kuno. The outcome of the workshop will pave the way for better cheetah management, S P Yadav said.
The relocation of 12 cheetahs from South Africa comes three years after the idea was mooted by the Indian government.
India originally initiated plans to bring the cheetahs there by mid-2022, but a delay in finalising a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two countries led to a postponement, with the animals continuing with their quarantine.
The MoU was finally signed in January.
A majority of the world’s 7,000 cheetahs live in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. Namibia has the world’s largest population of cheetahs.
The cheetah is the only large carnivore that got completely wiped out from India, mainly due to overhunting and habitat loss. The last spotted feline died in 1948 in the Sal forests of Chhattisgarh’s Koriya district.
According to the ‘Action Plan for Reintroduction of Cheetah in India’ prepared by the Wildlife Institute of India, around 12-14 cheetahs that are ideal for establishing a new cheetah population would be imported from South Africa, Namibia and other African countries as a founder stock for five years initially and then as required by the programme.
Restoring cheetah populations is a priority for India and will have vital and far-reaching conservation consequences, which would aim to achieve a number of ecological objectives.
This included re-establishing the functional role of cheetahs within their historical range in India and enhancing the livelihood options and economies of the local communities.
The African Cheetah Introduction Project in India’ was conceived in 2009 but it failed to take off for over a decade. The plan to introduce the cheetah by November 2021 in Kuno suffered a setback due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kuno has a good prey base (37 per sq km) for cheetahs, comprising the four-horned antelope, chinkara, nilgai, wild pig, spotted deer and sambar, according to officials.
Based on current prey estimates, Kuno can support around 20 cheetahs. With restoration, protection and management, the number can go up to 40 individuals.
The cheetah is considered vulnerable under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list of threatened species, with a declining population of less than 7,000 found primarily in the African savannas.
(News Source -Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Times Of Nation staff and is published from a www.indiatoday.in feed.)
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