Cheetahs back in India seven decades after extinction

New Delhi, Sep 17 (EFE).- Eight cheetahs arrived in India from Namibia on Saturday, seven decades after the giant cats became extinct in the South Asian country.

The coalition flew from the African country in a chartered cargo flight to Gwalior in central India.

Their reintroduction is part of India’s ambitious and contentious strategy to rejuvenate and diversify the wildlife and its habitat and boost tourism with the fastest land animal.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi released the cats from their cages into their enclosure on Saturday morning.

The enclosure lies in the nearly 750-sq-km Kuno National Park in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, state-run broadcaster Doordarshan reported.

“In previous centuries, we have seen how the exploitation of nature and display of human might against it was considered okay,” Modi noted in a televised speech.

He remarked that even though cheetahs had become extinct from India in 1952, “no meaningful effort was made to rehabilitate them for the past seven decades.”

He said when cheetahs would again run in the national park, the grassland ecosystem will get restored, and bio-diversity would increase.

The prime minister highlighted that employment opportunities would increase due to the growing eco-tourism, opening up new possibilities for development and jobs.

The cats will be able to come out of the enclosure and run free in the park after at least a month.

Wildlife officials chose the park for its scarce human presence, an abundance of water, and various herbivorous species that inhabit it.

According to a government document, the survival of 50 percent of the animals released after the first year is a sign of success.

More cheetahs could be introduced in other National Parks in the coming years.

The cheetah was declared extinct in India in 1952 due to poaching and natural habitat destruction.

More cheetahs under the “Cheetah Project” will come from African countries like South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana. EFE

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