India welcomes 8 cheetahs from Namibia under Project Cheetah

The cheetahs airlifted from Namibia were released at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh

The Cheetahs have arrived. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi released the eight cheetahs at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh today, it marked a historic chapter in the wildlife terrain of the country.

The wild Cheetahs, which had become extinct in India, were brought from Namibia and introduced in India under Project Cheetah. The project is incidentally the world’s first inter-continental large wild carnivore translocation project.

Eight Cheetahs – five female and three male animals – were set out at two release points at the Kuno National Park. The project forms part of the country’s plans to revitalise and diversify India’s wildlife and its habitat. The cheetah was declared extinct from India in 1952.

Arrival of cheetahs to aid biodiversity conservation efforts

The Cheetahs were brought from Namibia under a MoU signed earlier this year. It is expected that the cheetahs would help restore open forest and grassland ecosystems in India. This will further help in the conservation of biodiversity and to enhance the ecosystem services like water security, carbon sequestration and soil moisture conservation, benefiting the society at large.

The reintroduction of Cheetahs in India may be termed historic as it forms part of a long series of measures aimed at ensuring sustainability and environment protection. These measures were on since the past eight years, and have resulted in significant achievements in the area of environment protection and sustainability.

The coverage of protected Areas, which stood at 4.90 percent of the country’s geographical area in 2014, has now increased to 5.03 percent. This includes an increase in protected areas from 740 with an area of 1,61,081.62 sq km in 2014 to 981 with an area of 1,71,921 at the moment. Besides, forest and tree cover has increased by 16,000 sq km in the last four years.

India forest cover consistently increasing

India is among few countries in the world where forest cover is consistently increasing. There has also been an increase in the number of community reserves. From just 43 in 2014, the numbers have grown to more than 100 in 2019.

India has as many as 52 tiger reserves, covering approximately 75,000 sq km area in 18 states with around 75 percent population of tigers on a global scale. India achieved the goal of doubling the tiger numbers in 2018, which is four years in advance from the targeted year of 2022.  Tiger population in India has grown from 2,226 in 2014 to 2,967 in 2018, as per government statistics. The budgetary allocation for tiger conservation has also gone up from Rs 185 crore in 2014 to Rs 300 crore in 2022.

Similarly, the population of Asiatic Lions has also shown a steady increase with a population of 674 animals, an increase rate of 28.87 per cent. The country had recorded 523 lions in 2015.

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