Eight cheetahs from Namibia arrived in India, before their reintroduction into the wild

Eight cheetahs from Namibia arrived in India on Saturday for their next release into the wild, as part of a project to reintroduce these felines whose species was declared extinct in this region of the world 70 years ago.

According to authorities, this is the first intercontinental relocation of cheetahs, the fastest land animal on the planet.

An ambitious project which, however, divides the experts, some of whom are skeptical about its chances of success.

The five females and three males traveled from a wildlife park north of Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, on a chartered Boeing 747 dubbed “Cat plane”, for an 11-minute flight. hours.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi presided over this operation organized in Kuno National Park, about 300 km south of the capital New Delhi, an area chosen for its abundant prey and grasslands.

Each of the animals, aged between two and five and a half years, was fitted with a collar enabling its movements to be tracked by satellite.

They will first be kept in an enclosure, for a quarantine period of about a month, before being released into the open forest areas of the park.

Some specialists, however, have warned that these mammals may find it difficult to adapt to their new environment.

– Threatened species –

India was once home to the Asian cheetah, but it was declared extinct in 1952.

Endangered subspecies that once roamed the Middle East, Central Asia and India are now found in very small numbers in Iran.

Efforts to reintroduce these animals to India accelerated in 2020 when the Supreme Court ruled that African cheetahs, a different subspecies, could be settled in India in a “carefully chosen location” and on an experimental basis.

This is a gift from the government of Namibia, one of the few African countries where this cheetah still lives in the wild.

Negotiations are underway for a similar transfer from South Africa, which could involve a further twelve cheetahs.

Cheetahs became extinct in India mainly due to the gradual disappearance of their habitat and hunting for their characteristic spotted coat.

Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo is generally credited with killing the country’s last three cheetahs in the late 1940s.

A carnivorous mammal in the family Felidae, whose ancestors date back around 8.5 million years, cheetahs once roamed Asia and Africa in large numbers, according to the Cheetah Conservation Fund, CCF), located in Namibia.

Only about 7,000 specimens remain today, mainly in the African savannas.

The cheetah is listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

In North Africa and Asia, it is “critically endangered”.

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

Eight cheetahs from Namibia arrived in India, before their reintroduction into the wild