The ambitious project to reintroduce cheetahs into the Indian wilderness took another step forward with Namibia agreeing in principle to give 35-40 animals for translocation to India, officials who have just returned from the south African country said.
A five-member delegation from the Union environment ministry, MP — where the first cheetahs are scheduled to be relocated — and Wildlife Institute of India visited Namibia from February 18 to 22.
“During talks with Namibian officials, we asked for 35-40 cheetahs over a period of five years. They’ve agreed,” said Yadvendradev Jhala, dean of WII, who was part of the delegation. The next step, Jhala said, would be the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the environment ministries of the two countries on the transfer of cheetahs to India.
The Asiatic cheetah was wiped out in India and was formally declared extinct by the government in 1952. The project aims to reintroduce the predator in the Indian wilderness by bringing in African cheetahs from Namibia in batches.
“The number of animals to be transported in the first batch is not yet decided,” Jhala said. The first lot of cheetahs will be settled in MP’s Kuno National Park.
Now, experts said, the timeline of the cheetah’s arrival in India will depend on how fast the governments of the two countries move in signing the MoU and taking the subsequent steps for the translocation, which will probably to be the world first inter-continental transfer of a large predator for release in the wild.