Happy, proud that KNP chosen for cheetah reintroduction programme, say locals; authorities gear up for Saturday event | The Financial Express

Happy, proud that KNP chosen for cheetah reintroduction programme, say locals; authorities gear up for Saturday event

Eight cheetahs – five females and three males – will be brought to Madhya Pradesh from Namibia, an African country, on Saturday morning as part ‘Project Cheetah’, the world’s first inter-continental large wild carnivore translocation project, officials said.

Happy, proud that KNP chosen for cheetah reintroduction programme, say locals; authorities gear up for Saturday event
PM Narendra Modi is scheduled to release three of these cheetahs into the park's special enclosures at 10.45 am on Saturday.

People residing around the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh’s Sheopur district are happy and proud that the government has selected this wildlife centre for the ambitious intercontinental cheetah translocation project, and hope the move would create job opportunities and improve the fortunes of the region. Eight cheetahs – five females and three males – will be brought to Madhya Pradesh from Namibia, an African country, on Saturday morning as part ‘Project Cheetah’, the world’s first inter-continental large wild carnivore translocation project, officials said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to release three of these cheetahs into the park’s special enclosures at 10.45 am on Saturday, which is his birthday, seven decades after the animal became extinct in India. As per the earlier plan, the cheetahs were to be flown to Jaipur in Rajasthan before being brought to Madhya Pradesh. However, the plan has been changed as the big cats will be flown to Gwalior, from where they will be taken to the KNP in a special helicopter, they said.

Also read| Cheetahs to roam in Indian jungle again under world’s first inter-continental large wild carnivore translocation project

According to the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), an international not-for-profit organisation headquartered in Namibia and dedicated to saving the cheetah in the wild, the five female cheetahs are aged between two years and five years and the male siblings are aged between four-and-a-half years and five-and-a-half years. “It is a matter of pride for the people of Sheopur district that PM Modi has selected KNP for rehabilitating cheetahs. We are waiting with bated breath to welcome the cheetahs that are being brought from an African country,” said Kamal Singh, who resides in Sesaipura village located in the vicinity of the KNP.

Bharat Sharma, a resident of Karahal, said, “We are hopeful that now our future is secure as cheetahs will be rehabilitated in Kuno National Park, which will turn the fortunes of the region for better. We are now confident that KNP and Sheopur will be known the world over and it will generate a lot of employment opportunities for the people, especially youths.” The cheetah reintroduction programme and the participation of PM Modi has generated a lot of excitement among the residents of villages located close to the KNP.

Also read| PM Modi to release 8 Namibian cheetahs into MP’s Kuno National Park on his birthday

“The entire forest region is excited as cheetahs and Modiji are arriving in Kuno National Park and Karahal. We are ready to welcome them and just waiting for that grand moment. This is for the first time that an incumbent prime minister is visiting the area, and we had never witnessed this kind of enthusiasm and happiness among people earlier,” Karahal resident Devkinandan Paliwal told PTI.

A senior forest department official said a special cargo plane carrying eight cheetahs will land at Gwalior airport on Saturday morning after nearly 10 hours of journey from Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.”From Gwalior, cheetahs will be flown to KNP in an Indian Air Force (IAF) heavy-lift Chinook helicopter,” principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF) wildlife, J S Chauhan told PTI on Friday.

The cheetahs will remain without food during their journey and will be given supper once they are settled in the enclosures in the KNP, another official said. Chief conservator of forest (CCF) Uttam Sharma said a dais has been set up in the KNP, under which special boxes carrying cheetahs will be kept and PM Modi will release three of them in an enclosure by operating a lever.After that, other dignitaries will release the remaining cheetahs in their enclosures, he said.

The cheetahs will be brought in a special flight of Terra Avia, an airline based at Chisinau, Moldova (in Europe) that operates chartered passenger and cargo flights and aircraft leasing. The airline also conducted a demo of putting special boxes in the plane at Windhoek to avoid any last-minute glitch, sources said. In view of the high-profile event, security in the district has beefed-up with the Special Protection Group (SPG) in command, an official said.

After releasing the cheetahs, PM Modi will also participate in Self Help Group (SHG) Sammelan later that day with women SHG members/community resource persons at Karahal, for which elaborate arrangements are being made.According to Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Sheopur district president Surendra Jat, the prime minister will also plant trees at Karahal before addressing the SHG programme.He said the women SHG will gift a hamper of locally-produced tribal products to Modi on the occasion of his birthday, while the PM is giving the best ever “return gift” of cheetahs to the people of this region.

The KNP is situated on the Northern side of Vidhyachal mountains with an area of 344.686 sq km. It was named after a tributary of Chambal River, Kuno, a forest official said. The last cheetah died in the country in 1947 in Korea district in present day Chhattisgarh, which was earlier part of Madhya Pradesh, and the species was declared extinct from India in 1952.The ‘African Cheetah Introduction Project in India’ was conceived in 2009. A plan to introduce the big cat in the KNP by November last year had suffered a setback due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said

Get live Share Market updates and latest India News and business news on Financial Express. Download Financial Express App for latest business news.