New Delhi: Seven decades after they were officially declared extinct in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Saturday released wild cheetahs from Namibia in the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.
“Decades ago, the age-old link of biodiversity that was broken and became extinct, today we have a chance to restore it. Along with these cheetahs, the nature-loving consciousness of India has also awakened with full force,” the PM said, introducing the eight cheetahs, five females and three males, brought under Project Cheetah— world’s first inter-continental large wild carnivore translocation project.
“Project Cheetah is our endeavour towards environment and wildlife conservation. Once cheetahs start running in Kuno, its grassland ecosystem will also be restored and new opportunities for tourism and development will come up,” PM Modi said, addressing the nation on what also is his birthday.
Asking people to give the wild guests some time to adjust to their new surroundings and make Kuno their home, PM Modi said: “We have to ensure that our efforts are not defeated. People will have to show patience and wait for a few months to see these cheetahs in Kuno. These cheetahs have come as guests, unaware of this area. For them to be able to make Kuno their home, we will have to give them a few months,” he said.
The PM said when nature and the environment are protected, the future becomes secure and the avenues for growth and prosperity open up.
“When cheetahs sprint in Kuno, the grassland eco-system will be restored and it will also lead to an increase in biodiversity, employment opportunities will increase as a result of the growing eco-tourism thereby opening up new possibilities for development,” he said.
The Prime Minister 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”.
“Today cheetahs are found in some countries of Africa, and in Iran. However, India’s name was removed from that list long ago. Children will not have to go through this irony in the years to come. I am sure they will be able to see the cheetah running in their own country, in Kuno National Park. Today a big void in our forest and life is being filled through the cheetah,” he said, calling the day historic.
“I am sure that India’s efforts and traditions will guide the entire humanity in this direction, and give strength to the dream of a better world,” he added.
The eight cheetahs from Namibia had landed in India on Saturday as part of the programme to reintroduce the fastest land animal in its jungles.
A modified Boeing aircraft, which took off from the African country Friday night, landed at Gwalior Air Force Station where ground personnel helped transfer the crates marked ‘live animals’ to the Indian Air Force choppers which then carried them to Kuno National Park.
They were not given food during the journey and will have to hunt from available prey base.
A dais was set up under which special cages carrying cheetahs were kept. PM Modi released them by operating a lever.
Special helipads were constructed in and around the KNP for the launch and preparations were made to ensure an adequate prey base, like ‘chital’, for the new guests. The forest staff have also undergone intense training in Namibia for the management of cheetahs, officials said, adding that each animal will be monitored individually.
The PM also interacted with Cheetah Mitras, Cheetah Rehabilitation Management Group and students at the venue.