India has signed an agreement with South Africa to translocate 12 cheetahs to the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh, a senior official in the Union Environment Ministry said on Friday. Last week, the pact was signed and seven male and five female cheetahs are expected to reach Kuno by February 15, the official said.
The 12 South African cheetahs have been in quarantine for more than six months and were expected to reach Kuno this month but the transfer was delayed as “some processes in South Africa took some time”, the official said on condition of anonymity.
The cheetah is the only large carnivore that has been extirpated from India due to overhunting and habitat loss. The last cheetah died in 1947 in the Koriya district of modern-day Chhattisgarh, and the species was declared extinct in 1952.
Under the Cheetah reintroduction programme, last year Prime Minister Narendra Modi had released the first batch of eight eight spotted felines — five females and three males — from Namibia into a quarantine enclosure at Kuno on his 72nd birthday on September 17.
According to the Wildlife Institute of India’s ‘Action Plan for Reintroduction of Cheetah in India,’ 12-14 wild cheetahs (8-10 males and 4-6 females) 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.
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