India-bound Cheetahs, 4 male and 4 female, undergo final checks in Namibia ahead of trip
The Cheetahs will be brought either to Jaipur or Gwalior airport by a chartered flight from Namibia around August 25. They will then be transported to Kuno Palpur sanctuary by helicopter, officials said.
The eight African Cheetahs set to travel from Namibia to Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno Palpur sanctuary over the next few days have undergone preliminary health examinations . Half of them are female and half male; two are sub-adults while the rest are adults, senior officials said on Tuesday.
Though the agreement to translocate 12 more African Cheetahs from South Africa is in the final stages, the officials said that only the first batch from Namibia is now likely to travel to India this month — especially if signing the agreement with South Africa takes more time.
“We do not intend to wait. The initial plan was to bring them together. We have to see when the agreement with South Africa is signed. The travel dates for Cheetahs from Namibia have not been finalised but we are trying our best so that they will travel this month.Their health screening formalities have been done. The formalities from India side were a rabies vaccine; screening for viral diseases and ecto and endo-parasites. But we have conducted many more health checks to prevent any challenges,” said a senior scientist involved with the translocation programme.
“Health examinations on all eight identified Cheetahs have been completed. The biggest challenges we are facing at the moment are around logistics. Potentially, all the cheetahs could go to India at the same time. CCF is working with teams from India, South Africa and Namibia to coordinate the ground and air movement from Windhoek to India and then on to Kuno,” said a spokesperson of Cheetah Conservation Fund Cheetah team in Namibia.
There is no concern with leopards being inside Kuno, an expert said. “We have said before that Cheetahs are highly adaptable cats. They coexist with leopards, lions, hyenas all inside the same reserve. In Kuno, there are no lions or hyenas but yes, there are lots of leopards. The African Cheetahs are very well-versed with the ways of the wild and coexisting with other carnivores. There is nothing to worry about their adaptability,” said YV Jhala, the Dean of Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
“The only reason we had to remove some leopards is because they were within the five square km enclosure developed for cheetahs to be quarantined. You do not want another carnivore to be in the enclosure meant for quarantine. That increases the risk of disease transmission. They will have to be in mandatory quarantine at least for a month,” Jhala added.
The High Commission of India in Namibia on Monday tweeted pictures of some Cheetahs undergoing health screening. “Cheetahs, potential candidates fr transfer to Kuno NP, MP in due course, undergo thorough 1st health exam by int’l team of experts @CCFCheetah led by renowned specialist Dr Laurie Marker.”
MP chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, tweeted: “Warm Greetings to team @CCFCheetah and everyone involved in the first-ever intercontinental translocation of cheetahs. It is a momentous event in the history of wildlife conservation. Madhya Pradesh is prepared and eagerly waiting for their arrival.”
The Cheetahs will be brought either to Jaipur or Gwalior airport by a chartered flight from Namibia around August 25. They will then be transported to Kuno by helicopter, officials said.
India and Namibia signed an agreement for cheetah relocation on July 20 in which the countries stated that the purpose of the partnership is to facilitate further cooperation in biodiversity conservation and sustainable wildlife management. The agreement will remain in force for an initial period of five years. Thereafter, it will be renewed for successive five-year periods, unless either party terminates the agreement.
Cheetahs used to thrive across the central Indian landscape but disappeared in the late 1940s due to large scale hunting for sport and habitat loss. The Cheetahs that are arriving are not Asiatic Cheetahs but African Cheetahs , so essentially India will be introducing a genetic sub-species and not the Asiatic Cheetahs that went extinct in India, experts have said.