Twelve South African cheetahs arrived in India on February 18 as part of an ambitious project to reintroduce the spotted cats in the south Asian country. It is the second batch to arrive in the country after eight cheetahs from Namibia last year. The latest arrival is part of an agreement signed between India and South Africa in January to transfer more than 100 cheetahs to the Asian country over the next decade.
The South Africa cheetahs will join their Namibian cousins at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh. Quarantine enclosures have been created at the reserve for the newly arriving cheetahs, officials said. Their resettlement “provides space for the expansion of the cheetah within its historical range,” said the Environment Ministry.
India was once home to the Asiatic cheetah, but the animal was declared extinct in the country by 1952, primarily due to habitat loss and hunting. Efforts to reintroduce the animal gathered pace in 2020 when the Supreme Court ruled that African cheetahs, a different subspecies, could be brought into the country on an experimental basis.
The planet’s fastest land animal is also one of the oldest big cat species, dating back about 8.5 million years. It once roamed widely throughout Asia and Africa in great numbers, with around 7,000 surviving today in the African savannahs. It is listed globally as “vulnerable” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.