Namibian Cheetahs Released Into Indian Wildlife Park

EIGHT wild cheetahs that left Namibia for India on Friday were released into the Indian wild by the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi on Saturday.

The cheetahs arrived on Saturday and were released into the Kuno National Park wildlife sanctuary, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

This comes after Namibia and India signed an agreement to bring cheetahs to the forests of the south Asian country, where the large cat became extinct 70 years ago.

According to the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), the eight cheetahs – three male and five female adults – are two to five-and-a-half-years-old.

The conservation fund added that each cheetah had been vaccinated, fitted with a satellite collar, and kept in isolation at the CCF Centre at Otjiwarongo.

“The cheetahs were selected based on an assessment of health, wild disposition, hunting skills and ability to contribute genetics that will result in a strong founder population,” the statement reads.

Laurie Marker, the founder and executive director of CCF, said the conservation of species requires global cooperation.

“For more than 12 years, I have consulted with the government of India and their scientists on how to bring cheetahs back to the landscape,” she said.

CCF had support from Erindi Private Game Reserve and the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, Marker said.

During the handing over ceremony in Windhoek on Friday, Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation deputy executive director Rebecca Iyambo said the cheetah donation was part of a cooperation agreement with India in biodiversity conservation and sustainable wildlife management.

The high commissioner of India to Namibia, Prashant Agrawal, said the reintroduction of cheetahs to that country was very special since India is marking its 75th independence anniversary.

“In this project, we have been privileged to have a strong partnership with Namibia, rightly called the Cheetah Capital of the World. I would like to thank the government of Namibia for their steadfast support to this project, which is another milestone in our historic close ties,” Agrawal said.

He added that the cheetahs are the goodwill ambassadors for India-Namibia relations and for the cause of conservation globally.

However, a local Indian newspaper India Today reported that the success of the project depends on the cheetahs’ survival.

The newspaper reported that the centre has laid out its criteria for success of the first phase of the project, which includes achieving at least 50% survival of the introduced cheetahs for the first year and the establishment of a home range for cheetahs in Kuno so that they can successfully reproduce in the wild.

The Indian government also plans to ensure that some wild-born cheetah cubs survive for at least over a year and that the first generation breeds successfully, the report said, adding that the project would be deemed unsuccessful if the reintroduced cheetahs do not survive or fail to reproduce in five years.

However, environment ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda said such negative reports will always be there.

“The officials from the Cheetah Conservation Fund are in India to monitor them. The chances are that they will survive,” Muyunda said.

He added that the perception that the government is giving away the country’s resources is not true.

“We want to diversify species globally. We do not want to see their concentration only in Namibia, but they must also be seen in other countries,” he said.

According to a 2019 report, Namibia has the largest population of free-ranging cheetahs in the world.

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