Their names are Obaan and Asha. This pair of Namibian cheetahs have been released into the wild in India, Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav announced on Sunday. This initiative aims to reintroduce these cats, which disappeared from the country more than seventy years ago.
“Both cheetahs are fine,” Bhupender Yadav tweeted after their release in Kuno National Park in central India. The cheetahs had just completed a stay of several months in a habituation enclosure.
About a hundred individuals within ten years
The two animals are the first to be released from the eight cheetahs that arrived from Namibia last September, following a 2020 Indian Supreme Court ruling that approved the reintroduction of the species on an experimental basis.
Twelve more cheetahs arrived from South Africa last month. Authorities hope that once released, the cheetahs will multiply and the population will reach about 100 individuals within ten years. This is the first intercontinental translocation of cheetahs, the fastest land animal in the world.
A species considered “endangered”.
India was once home to the Asiatic cheetah. However, the last specimen was killed by an Indian prince in 1947, and the species was officially declared extinct in the country in 1952. Kuno National Park was chosen as a site for the introduction of African cheetahs – a subspecies distinct from the Asiatic cheetahs – because of its distinctive characteristics, the extensive grasslands and the rich prey it harbors.
The cheetah is considered “endangered”. The International Union for Conservation of Nature List of Threatened Species (IUCN). Today there are only about 7,000 left, mostly in the African savannahs.
Its survival is threatened primarily by the reduction of its natural habitat and the disappearance of its prey due to human hunting, land development for other purposes and climate change.
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