Over 70 years ago, the last Cheetah was seen in India. Fast forward to 2023, the Asian country can now boast of at least 20 cheetahs after it received 12 of the cats from South Africa on Saturday.
“An [Indian Airforce] C-17 aircraft carrying the second batch of 12 Cheetahs landed at AF Station Gwalior today, after a 10-hour flight from Johannesburg, South Africa,” the Indian Air Force announced on Saturday.
Last month, in a joint statement with the Indian government, the South African Ministry for Forestry, Fishery, and the environment said: “The Republic of South Africa and the Republic of India have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the Re-introduction of Cheetah to the Asian country.” The statement added that South Africa would send 12 cheetahs annually to India for the next ten years, beginning from February this year.
“The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Reintroduction of Cheetah to India facilitates cooperation between the parties to establish a viable and secure cheetah population in India; promotes conservation and ensures that expertise is shared and exchanged, and capacity built, to promote cheetah conservation,” the statement added.
Last year, India received eight cheetahs from Namibia, which was the beginning of the government’s effort to reintroduce the cat into the country. The cats were so important, that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to personally welcome them into the country.
“A long wait is over, the Cheetahs have a home in India at the Kuno National Park,” Modi wrote on Twitter at the time.
Both the cheetahs from Namibia and the ones from South Africa will now be kept at the Kuno National Park.
In 1952, Cheetahs were declared extinct in India. Before that time, cheetahs roamed through the Middle East and Central India and Sub-Saharan Africa. As the years pass by, habitat loss, hunting, and conflict with humans have caused the animal to become fewer and even extinct in some of these places, including India.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are less than 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild and they could be seen in Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania, and Kenya. 12 of these adult cheetahs are in Iran.