Reminding the nation that the wheel of time rarely offers “a chance to rectify the past and build a new future” but “there is one such moment before us today”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi released cheetahs from Namibia at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh Saturday, 70 years after the cheetah was declared extinct in India.
At 11.25 am, hours after eight cheetahs — five female and three male — landed in India, Modi, who turned 72 Saturday, stood on a platform above two crates and opened their doors, releasing two cheetahs into a quarantine enclosure. He took photographs as the cheetahs stepped out into their new habitat.
In an address to the nation a little later, the Prime Minister asked people to be “patient” and wait a few months before visiting the park to see the cheetahs.
“Today these cheetahs have come as guests, and are unfamiliar with this area. For these cheetahs to be able to make Kuno National Park their home, we have to give them a few months. International guidelines are being followed and India is trying its best to settle these cheetahs. We must not allow our efforts to fail.”
“Decades ago, an age-old link of biodiversity was broken and became extinct. Today, we have a chance to restore it. Today, the cheetahs have returned to the soil of India. And I would also like to say that along with these cheetahs, the nature-loving consciousness of India has also been awakened with full force.”
“I congratulate all countrymen on this historic occasion. In particular, I thank our friend Namibia and its government with whose cooperation the cheetahs have returned to Indian soil after several decades,” he said.
“When we are away from our roots, we lose a lot. Therefore, we have reiterated the importance of ‘paanch pranas’ (five pledges) like ‘being proud of our heritage’ and ‘liberation from the mentality of slavery’ in this ‘Amrit Kaal’ of independence.”
Prime Minister @narendramodi releases 8 wild cheetahs brought from Namibia, in the Kuno National Park. #CheetahIsBack #IndiaWelcomesCheetah #ProjectCheetah @moefcc @byadavbjp @MIB_India @PIB_India @mygovindia pic.twitter.com/2RPBAStPng
— All India Radio News (@airnewsalerts) September 17, 2022
“We have also seen the time when exploitation of nature was considered a symbol of power and modernity. When only the last three cheetahs were left in the country in 1947, they too were hunted mercilessly and irresponsibly in the forests,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that we declared cheetahs extinct from the country in 1952, but no meaningful effort was made for decades to rehabilitate them. Now the country is committed to rehabilitate cheetahs with new energy in the ‘Amrit Kaal’ of independence,” he said.
मैं हमारे मित्र देश नामीबिया और वहाँ की सरकार का भी धन्यवाद करता हूँ जिनके सहयोग से दशकों बाद चीते भारत की धरती पर वापस लौटे हैं: PM @narendramodi
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) September 17, 2022
Pointing out that years of hard work had gone into this rehabilitation project, the Prime Minister said that utmost energy was deployed for an area not given too much political importance.
“A detailed Cheetah Action Plan was prepared while our talented scientists conducted extensive research, working closely with South African and Namibian experts. Scientific surveys were conducted across the country to locate the most suitable area for cheetahs, and then Kuno National Park was chosen. Today, our hard work is before us,” he said.
With the cheetahs now in Kuno National Park, the grassland ecosystem, he said, will be restored and it will also lead to an increase in biodiversity, and increase eco-tourism and employment opportunities in the region.
He said today when the world looks at nature and the environment, it talks about sustainable development. “For India, nature and environment, its animals and birds, are not just about sustainability and security but the basis of the country’s sensibility and spirituality, “ he said.
“We are taught to care about even the smallest creatures living around us. Our traditions are such that if the life of a living being goes away without any reason, then we are filled with guilt. Then how can we accept that the existence of an entire species is lost because of us?” he said.
The Prime Minister said that today cheetahs are found in some countries of Africa, and in Iran. However, India’s name was removed from that list long ago. “The India of the 21st century” is giving a message to the whole world that economy and ecology are not conflicting fields.
“Today, on one hand, we are included among the fastest growing economies of the world. At the same time, the forest areas of the country are also expanding rapidly. Since the formation of our government in 2014, about 250 new protected areas have been added in the country. There has also been a big increase in the number of Asiatic lions here, and Gujarat has emerged as a dominating sphere of Asiatic lions in the country. Decades of hard work, research-based policies and public participation have a big role behind this,” he said, adding that the numbers of tigers, lions and the once critically endangered one-horned rhino has been on the rise, and elephant numbers have increased to 30,000 in the country.
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The Prime Minister also interacted with Cheetah Mitras, Cheetah Rehabilitation Management Group and students at the venue. Madhya Pradesh Governor Mangubhai Patel, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Union Ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Bhupender Yadav, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Ashwini Choubey were among those present on the occasion.
The introduction of Cheetah in India is being done under Project Cheetah, the world’s first inter-continental large wild carnivore translocation project.