New Delhi: Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav today said that 12 cheetahs will be flown in from South Africa on February 18.

As part of the ambitious cheetah reintroduction program, Prime Minister Narendra Modi released the first batch of eight spotted cats from Namibia – five females and three males – into a quarantine enclosure at Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park on September 17, last year on his 72nd birthday. At present, eight cheetahs in Kuno are killing one prey every three-four day 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. India and South Africa had in January signed an MoU to transport cheetahs from the African country and reintroduce them in Kuno. 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 has been completely exterminated from India, mainly due to overhunting and habitat loss. The last spotted cat died in 1948 in the Sal forests of the Koriya district of Chhattisgarh.

“Following the import of the 12 cheetahs in February, the plan is to translocate a further 12 annually for the next eight to 10 years. The terms of the MoU will be reviewed every five years to ensure it remains relevant,” the environment ministry said.

According to the ‘Action Plan for the Re-introduction of Cheetah in India’ prepared by the Wildlife Institute of India, about 12-14 wild cheetahs which are ideal for establishing a new cheetah population are imported from South Africa, Namibia, and other African countries as a funder stock initially for five years and then as required by the program.

By Archana

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