Cheetahs are back in the wild in India after 70 years

A pair of Namibian cheetahs have been released back into the wild in India as part of a project to reintroduce the feline that disappeared from the country more than 70 years ago, Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav said Sunday.

“Both cheetahs are doing well,” Yadav tweeted after they were released into Kuno National Park in central India after months of acclimatization.

The two animals, named Obaan and Asha, are the first of eight cheetahs to be released from Namibia last September, following a decision by India’s Supreme Court that allowed the species to be re-introduced as an experimental species in 2020.

Twelve more cheetahs arrived from South Africa last month. Authorities hope that once released, cheetahs will breed and that the population will reach hundreds of individuals within 10 years.

This is the first intercontinental migration of cheetahs, the fastest land animals on the planet.

India was once home to the Asiatic cheetah. But the last specimen was killed in 1947 by an Indian prince, and the species was officially declared extinct in the country in 1952.

Kuno National Park was chosen for the introduction of African cheetahs – a subspecies distinct from Asiatic cheetahs – because of its extensive pastures and the abundant prey it harbors.

The cheetah is considered “Vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) list of endangered species. Today, only about 7,000 people remain, mostly in the African savannas.

Its survival is mainly threatened by the reduction of its natural habitat and the extinction of its prey due to human hunting, land development for other purposes, and climate change.

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