Hours after 12 cheetahs were brought to Madhya Pradesh from South Africa on Saturday, they were released into the quarantine enclosures at the Kuno National Park (KNP) in Sheopur district of the state.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Union Minister for Environment and Forests Bhupender Yadav released these felines into the quarantine bomas after they were transported to the KNP from Gwalior around noon.
An Indian Air Force (IAF) plane carrying them in wooden boxes from South Africa had arrived at Gwalior airport around 10 am. From there, they were flown to the KNP in IAF helicopters.
These cheetahs - seven males and five females - comprise the second set of big cats coming to the state, with the first group of eight from Namibia having been released into the KNP on September 17 last year at a function by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. With the addition of these 12 members, the count of cheetahs at the KNP has gone up to 20.
"The cheetahs from South Africa have been quarantined," Kuno Divisional Forest Officer P K Verma told PTI from the spot.
These animals had embarked on a journey to their new home thousands of miles away aboard an IAF transport aircraft from the O R Tambo International Airport, Gauteng in South Africa shortly before midnight, a project participant and expert said earlier.
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The intercontinental translocation of these fastest land animals - first from Namibia and now from South Africa - is part of the Indian government's ambitious cheetah reintroduction programme. The country's last cheetah died in Koriya district of present-day Chhattisgarh in 1947 and the species was declared extinct in 1952.
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