PM Modi Releases 8 Cheetahs at MP's Kuno, Says 'No Efforts Made in Decades'
The big cats have been flown in from Namibia and were released in the Kuno National Park on PM Modi's birthday.
"For decades, no efforts were made to rehabilitate Cheetahs," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday, 17 September, in an apparent dig at previous Congress governments, after he released eight of the big cats at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.
The occasion marked the historic reintroduction of the species considered to be extinct in India for 70 years.
A special cargo flight carrying eight cheetahs from Namibia landed at the Indian Air Force Station in Madhya Pradesh's Gwalior on Saturday.
Prime Minister Modi released the cheetahs into quarantine enclosures at the state's Kuno National Park on Saturday, which also happens to be his birthday.
The PM released the five female and three male cheetahs into the park, which is around 165 km away from Gwalior, as part of his efforts to revitalise and diversify the country's wildlife and habitat, his office has said.
The cheetahs were flown to the park in an Indian Air Force (IAF) Chinook heavy-lift helicopter.
Union Minister for Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia was also present when the cheetahs landed, and shared visuals from the Gwalior Airport.
'The Cheetahs are Guests in India, Need Time to Adjust': PM Modi
"The biodiversity that had become extinct and the link that got disconnected for decades, today we have the chance to reconnect it," PM Modi in an address to the nation after releasing the Cheetahs in the national park.
He also said that with the Cheetahs, the "nature-loving consciousness" had also awakened in the country with full force.
Taking a dig at previous Congress governments, Modi said, "It is unfortunate that we declared Cheetahs extinct from the country in 1952. For decades, no meaningful effort was made to rehabilitate them."
He also said that since the Cheetahs were "guests" in India, they must be given some time to adjust to their new habitat.
"These Cheetahs have come as guests, unaware of this area. For them to be able to make Kuno National Park their home, we will have to give these Cheetahs a few months' time," he said.
The PM further added that the government was trying its best to settle the big cats as per international guidelines.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan hailed the event as a "historic" occasion, saying, "No greater gift for MP than the fact that the cheetahs from Namibia are coming to Kuno National Park. They had gone extinct and it's a historic step to reintroduce them," news agency ANI reported.
Chouhan also called it the "biggest wildlife incident" of this century and added that it would immensely boost tourism in the state.
Earlier, the Indian Embassy in Namibia had tweeted visuals of the plane carrying the cheetahs taking off from the Namibian capital of Windhoek to Gwalior.
The translocation of the cheetahs cost the exchequer an estimated Rs 70 crore, of which Rs 50 crore was borne by Indian Oil Corporation (IOC).
'Whole Event a 'Tamasha', Project Cheetah Had Been Prepared by Congress'
On the other hand, the Congress called the event a "tamasha," orchestrated by Modi to divert attention from national issues and the Rahul Gandhi-led "Bharat Jodo Yatra."
Congress General Secretary and In-charge Communications Jairam Ramesh claimed that Modi "hardly ever acknowledges continuity in governance" and that the Cheetah project was yet another example proving that.
"PM hardly ever acknowledges continuity in governance. Cheetah project going back to my visit to Capetown on 25.04.2010 is the latest example," Ramesh, who was the environment and forest minister from 2009 to 2011, said on Twitter.
On Saturday, the Congress had also said that the project to transfer cheetahs from Namibia to India was prepared by the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2008-09.
"The proposal for 'Project Cheetah' was prepared in 2008-09. Manmohan Singh's government gave approval to it. The then Forest and Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, went to Cheetah outreach centre in South Africa in April 2010," the Congress tweeted.
The 'African Cheetah Introduction Project'
The 'African Cheetah Introduction Project in India' was conceived in 2009, with a plan to introduce the big cat by November last year in Kuno National Park, but it suffered a setback due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cheetahs are being reintroduced in India after seven decades, as the species had been declared extinct in the country in 1952.
According to reports, the cheetah has lost 90 percent of its global habitat in the last 100 years. In addition, in many of the 31 populations of the cheetah, only 100-200 are left with their habitat consistently deteriorating.
(With inputs from ANI and The Indian Express.)
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