After a delay of over two years, a five-member Indian team finally set off to Namibia on Thursday to bring cheetahs to India for relocating them at Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park.
The five members comprise one each from the Ministry headquarters in Delhi, the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the Wildlife Institute of India, the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, and the Madhya Pradesh government.
The Indian government has been in the process of holding consultation meetings with African countries for bringing cheetahs. A total of 12-14 cheetahs are intended to be brought from South Africa/Namibia/other African countries over a period of five years as per the Action Plan. This would include about 8-10 wild males cheetahs and 4-6 wild females.
In September last year, Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Bhupender Yadav had said the entire process may take six months at the least.
An official said: “Earlier due to the pandemic induced lockdown, the team’s departure was delayed. Then, the team was to leave in December 2021 but again got delayed because of rising Omicron cases. The team is to be there for a week.”
Brainchild of former Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, the project was first planned and launched in 2010.
Earlier in the day, the Congress leader tweeted: “An expert team is leaving for Namibia this morning to finalize modalities for the translocation of 8-10 cheetahs to the Kuno National Park in MP. An initiative launched in 2010 is finally coming into fruition. I wish them the very best!”
The cheetah was declared extinct from India in 1952 and currently there are no cheetahs in any National Park or Wildlife Sanctuary in India. It is the only large carnivore to have become extinct in independent India.
The Lok Sabha was informed last week as part of a reply to a Parliamentary question that the Centre has allotted Rs 38.70 crore for the cheetah introduction project up to year 2025-26.
“Rs 38.70 crore under the ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger has been allocated to the cheetah introduction project for the years 2021-22 to 2025-26,” Minister of State for Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, Ashwini Kumar Choubey had told the Lok Sabha on February 7.
This has been a much discussed, and debated project of the Ministry. It was in January 2020 that the Supreme Court, while responding to an application by the NTCA, had given “permission to reintroduce cheetahs from Africa to suitable sites in India”.