Cheetahs will soon make a comeback to India after 70 years, possibly by Independence Day.
The Namibian government on Wednesday signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) sent by the Indian government, clearing a major hurdle in the world’s first trans-continental cheetah translocation.
A similar MoU with South Africa will be completed within a week, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) chief SP Yadav said while quoted by Times of India.
In the first lot, eight cheetahs will be brought to Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh.
The enclosures where cheetahs will be released for acclimatization are ready. Thousands of stray dogs in villages close to the forest have been vaccinated.
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“The cheetahs to be translocated have been identified, vaccinated and shifted to quarantine in Namibia. Now that the MoU has been signed, we are deciding the transportation mode. Many companies have offered their services. A team from India, including a veterinarian, will go to Namibia to assist in the proceedings,” Yadav said, adding that cheetahs may arrive in India in August, but the date has not been fixed yet.
Sources said the announcement is likely to be made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Red Fort in his Independence Day speech.
A plane carrying the precious cargo may land at an IAF airstrip, sources say. Yadav said that discussions are on to land the cheetahs directly at Kuno where they will be quarantined for 30 days, radio-collared and monitored. “The cheetahs will be released in enclosures once they adapt to the area,” he added as reported by TOI.
A team of cheetah donors from Namibia and South Africa had visited Kuno on June 15 to take stock of the preparations and were “very satisfied” with it, sources say.
Union minister for environment, forest and climate change, Bhupender Yadav, in a tweet said, “Happy to share that India has signed a historic MoU with Namibia to promote wildlife conservation and sustainable biodiversity utilization. The MoU seeks to promote conservation and restoration of cheetahs in their former range from which the species went extinct.”
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tweeted that it’s a moment of pride for MP. “The cheetah reintroduction project will restore historic evolutionary balance and contribute to global conservation efforts,” he said.