India prepares to welcome 12 African cheetahs

time:2023-06-03 21:51:15 source:BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation)

A dozen African cheetahs are set to arrive in India, months after eight of the big cats were transferred from Namibia last year.

Five females and seven males will be flown from South Africa to a national park in central India on Saturday.

The transfer is part of an agreement signed by South Africa in January to introduce dozens of cheetahs to India over the next decade.

Asiatic cheetahs became extinct in India in the late 1940s.

Experts say that excessive hunting and loss of habitat led to their disappearance.

In 2020, India's Supreme Court had ruled that African cheetahs, a different subspecies, could be brought into the country at a "carefully chosen location" on an experimental basis.

In 2022, eight cheetahs were transported from Namibia to the Kuno National Park in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Now 12 more big cats will join those introduced from Namibia.

A wildlife expert associated with the project told PTI news agency that the cheetahs are expected to reach the national park by noon on Saturday.

Uttam Sharma, director of Kuno National Park, said the big cats will be placed in quarantine enclosures upon their arrival. As per Indian laws, imported animals need to be kept in isolation for a month before and after their arrival in the country.

The 12 cheetahs have been living in quarantine in South Africa since July. However, their translocation was delayed by months, as the two countries worked out the final details of the agreement.

Wildlife experts have raised concerns about the long quarantine periods the cheetahs are being subjected to, and say that it could harm their health and fitness.

However, Mr Sharma said that all preparations to receive the big cats "had been completed".

India has been making efforts to reintroduce cheetahs since the 1950s. An effort in the 1970s from Iran was unsuccessful after the Shah of Iran was deposed and the negotiations stopped.

Proponents of the project say that the reintroduction of cheetahs will build up local economies and help restore ecosystems that support the big cats.

But some worry that relocation of animals is always fraught with risks and releasing the cheetahs into a park might put them in harm's way.

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