Cheetahs return to India after 70 years : eight cats arrive from South Africa

(ORDO NEWS) — Back in the middle of the last century, the last Indian cheetahs were destroyed, and now an ambitious project is being implemented to return these graceful cats to the country.

On Friday, a plane arrived from Namibia with eight African cheetahs on board: now they have to live in a reserve in northern India.

India was once home to the Asiatic cheetah , which today can only be found in Iran. By 1952, the Indian cheetah was declared extinct, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that environmentalists began discussing importing African cheetahs to replace their extinct relatives.

The project to reintroduce this big cat took more than a decade. Since 2020, New Delhi has begun preparations to receive cheetahs in the Kuno National Park, an area of ​​​​about 350 square kilometers.

The organizers of the project chose this place due to the abundant production and open spaces reminiscent of the African savannahs.

Now, finally, the first cats have arrived in their future homeland. On Friday, a Boeing 747 chartered from Namibia , nicknamed the Cat plane , delivered eight adult cheetahs, three males and five females, to India after an 11-hour flight, Indian newspapers have already reported .

While critics of the project warn of the potential difficulties of reintroducing cheetahs into an unfamiliar habitat where leopards already live, project organizers don’t see it that way.

According to Laurie Marker of the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, cheetahs get along well with leopards in Africa, so there is no reason to believe that two cats in India cannot become part of a single ecosystem.

Cheetahs return to India after 70 years eight cats arrive from South Africa 2
Hunting with cheetahs was a popular pastime among the Indian nobility: this 1812 painting shows a big cat catching a markhorned antelope

Newly arrived cheetahs are young (four to six years old) and active, so conservationists will put satellite collars on them before releasing them into the wild. This will allow people to track their movements in the reserve and learn about their exit from the protected area.

In the future, environmentalists are planning another “delivery” of twelve cheetahs from Africa: this will increase the genetic diversity of Indian cheetahs so that they become the ancestors of a viable population.

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