Cheetahs - brought from Namibia - are being introduced in India under Project Cheetah, which is the world's first inter-continental large wild carnivore translocation project, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi releasing the wild Cheetahs - which had become extinct in India since 1952 - in Kuno National Park on Saturday.
“Decades ago, the age-old link of biodiversity that was broken and became extinct, today we have a chance to restore it... Today the cheetah has returned to the soil of India,” the prime minister said while addressing the nation on the occasion at Kuno National Park located at Saran Aharwani in Madhya Pradesh.
The Kuno National Park, which is a part of the Khathiar-Gir dry deciduous forests eco-region. was set up in 1981 as a wildlife sanctuary with an initial area of 344.686 km in Sheopur and Morena districts. In 2018, it was given the status of a national park.
The prime minister said that reintroduction of Cheetahs in India, which have been brought from Namibia under an MoU signed earlier this year, is a part of the efforts toward ensuring sustainability and environment protection in the last eight years.
"Project Cheetah is our endeavour towards environment and wildlife conservation," he said and congratulated all the countrymen on this historic occasion while making a special mention of Namibia and its government with whose cooperation, the cheetahs have returned to Indian soil after decades.
Recalling the years of hard work that went behind making this rehabilitation successful, the Prime Minister said that the utmost energy was deployed for an area that is not given too much political importance. He mentioned that a detailed Cheetah Action Plan was prepared while our talented scientists conducted extensive research, working closely with South African and Namibian experts.
The Prime Minister added that scientific surveys were conducted across the country to locate the most suitable area for cheetahs, and then Kuno National Park was chosen for this auspicious start.
“I am sure, these cheetahs will not only make us aware of our responsibilities towards nature but will also make us aware of our human values and traditions, ” he remarked.
The prime minister said that Cheetahs will not only help restore open forest and grassland ecosystems in India, it will also help conserve biodiversity and enhance the ecosystem services like water security, carbon sequestration and soil moisture conservation, benefiting society at large.
The coverage of Protected Areas which was 4.90 per cent of the country's geographical area in 2014 has now increased to 5.03 per cent. This includes an increase in Protected Areas in the country from 740 with an area of 1,61,081.62 sq km in 2014 to present 981 with an area of 1,71,921 sq km.
The Prime Minister highlighted employment opportunities that will increase as a result of the growing eco-tourism in the area thereby opening up new possibilities for development.
Requesting all countrymen to act with patience and wait for a few months to witness the cheetahs released at Kuno National Park, Modi said. “Today these cheetahs have come as guests, and are unaware of this area... For these cheetahs to be able to make Kuno National Park their home, we have to give them a few months' time".
Modi stressed that international guidelines are being followed and India is trying its best to settle these cheetahs.
The prime minister also interacted with Cheetah Mitras, Cheetah Rehabilitation Management Group and students at the Kuno National Park.
Madhya Pradesh Governor Mangubhai Patel; Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan; Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Bhupender Yadav, Jyotiraditya M Scindia and Ashwini Chobey were among those present on the occasion.