New Delhi, Jan 6 (EFE).- India is set to release 50 cheetahs in its territory over the next five years, as a part of an ambitious project to reintroduce the species, extinct in the Asian country for 70 years, according to official sources Thursday.
“Cheetah is the only large carnivore that has been extirpated in India over historical times. A project to bring back Cheetah by way of reintroduction has been launched at the 19th meeting of the National Tiger Conservation Authority,” Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change announced on Twitter.
Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav, during a meeting overnight, presented an extensive report on plans to reintroduce the species.
The project will kick off in the coming months with the release of between 12 and 14 cheetahs from South Africa, Namibia and Botswana in the Kuno National Park, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
“The original threats that resulted in the extinction of the cheetah have been abated and India will soon have the charismatic species back,” tweeted Yadav after the meeting.
This first group of cheetahs will consist of approximately eight males and four females of different ages, from different reserves to ensure the genetic diversity of their descendants.
According to the report, the large size of the Kuno wildlife sanctuary – 748 square kilometers -, low human presence, abundance of water, and a large number of other herbivorous species that inhabit the site were the main reasons for its selection.
It added that later on more specimens could be released in other national parks.
India sees the reintroduction of the cheetah – the fastest animal on land – as an opportunity to expand its wildlife diversity and boost wildlife tourism.
The Indian Government declared the cheetah officially endangered in its territory in 1952, mainly because of indiscriminate hunting and the destruction of their natural habitats.
But seven decades later, authorities have underlined that a ban on hunting and the presence of enough habitats available to the species will facilitate the reintroduction of the cheetah.
However, they they have stressed that a survival of even 50 percent of the animals released after the first year would be considered a success.
In the long term, not achieving reproduction of any of the specimens in the first five years, or their inability to adapt to their habitats would be categorized as failure.
This could result in the search for alternative strategies, or even the termination of the program, according to the report. EFE