At 11.30 am on Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi operated a lever to open a gate and release eight cheetahs into a special enclosure. He captured the moment on a camera as the cheetahs scampered about, checking out their new home. Jet-lagged after a 9,000-km overnight flight from Namibia to Gwalior, and then to the Kuno helipad, the cheetahs looked at their new surroundings a bit tentatively at first, but were soon sprinting about.
The release of the sleek predators was planned to coincide with PM Modi’s birthday — he turned 72 on Saturday — with Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and several Union ministers present on the platform for the unique event.
“Decades ago, the age-old link of biodiversity was broken and became extinct, today we have a chance to restore it,” PM Modi said, adding: “Today, the cheetah has returned to the soil of India.”
It’s very rare for a species extinct in one part of the world to be replaced by a lot from another, especially an apex predator. The whole world had its eyes on the world’s first inter-continental large wild carnivore translocation project, a mission that took decades to dream and years to plan and work out.
On the spotted newcomers, Modi said: “We will have to show patience, wait for a few months to see the cheetahs released in Kuno National Park. Today, these cheetahs have come as guests and are unfamiliar with this area. For these cheetahs to be able to make Kuno National Park their home, we will have to give them a few months’ time.”