Wild cheetahs return to India for the first time since 1952 | India

Cheetahs are due to return to Indian forests in August for the first time in more than 70 years, officials have said.

Eight wild cats from Namibia will roam freely in Kuno-Palpur National Park in the state of Madhya Pradesh in a bid to reintroduce the animal to its natural habitat.

Despite being a vital part of India’s ecosystem, the cheetah was declared extinct from the country in 1952 due to habitat loss and poaching. Cheetahs can reach speeds of up to 113 km/h, making them the fastest land animal in the world.

There are only around 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild worldwide and the animals are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Namibia has the largest cheetah population in the world.

Authorities have been struggling to relocate the animals since 2020, after India’s Supreme Court ruled the African cheetahs could be returned to a “carefully chosen location”.

The move coincides with the nation’s 75th Independence Day, celebrating cheetahs as an important part of India’s cultural heritage.

India’s Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav tweeted: “Completing 75 glorious years of Independence with the restoration of India’s fastest land-based flagship species, the cheetah, will rekindle the ecological dynamics of the landscape.”

He added, “The cheetah reintroduction to India has a broader goal of restoring ecological function in Indian grasslands that was lost due to the extinction of the Asiatic cheetah. This is in line with IUCN guidelines on conservation translocations.

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The Asiatic cheetah, once found in areas from the Arabian Peninsula to Afghanistan, is an endangered species and now only exists in Iran. It is estimated that only 12 cats are still alive.
Efforts to reintroduce cats to India from Iran in the 1970s failed after the Iranian revolution.

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