The event was 70 years in the making.
A chartered Boeing 747 landed at the Indian Air Force Station in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh last week. This was no ordinary long-haul flight. The jumbo arrived in South Asia 11 hours after picking up eight cheetahs from Windhoek, Namibia.
A long time coming
The flight marked a landmark occasion for India. Cheetahs were previously prevalent across the land, being found as far south as Tamil Nadu. Sadly, they were hunted into near extinction during the rule of various governments – from the Mughals to the British Raj. Following independence, the cheetah was eventually formally declared extinct in 1952.
Yet, the fate of the cheetah in India has now seen another twist, having been reintroduced to the country today after seven decades. They are set to be joined by another 12 from South Africa next month amid an ambitious 13-year project.
The customized 747-400 that conducted the first flight was brought out of desert storage in May to work as a freighter with Aquiline International and Terra Avia. It was chartered this week to carry the eight big cats over the Indian Ocean. Notably, the aircraft has an Amur tiger painted on its face, a feature that has been present on the plane since Transaero unveiled the design in 2015 during its Caring for Tigers Together campaign. Altogether, it’s rather fitting that a jumbo with this livery carries the coalition of felines to their new home.
What else can be more royal than signing an MOU with Namibia to bring 8 cheetahs under the reintroduction program which was launched on July 20, this year.
Of the 8, 5 are female cheetahs and 3 males from Namibia arrived in Rajasthan’s Jaipur on September 17 in a specially adapted B747 jumbo jet.
From Jaipur, they will fly by helicopter to his new home – Kuno National Park in the Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh.
Facts about Namibia
Namibia is a country in southern Africa that is home to diverse wildlife, including a significant cheetah population. Its capital is Windhoek.
Namibia is a country in southern Africa. The only desert in the world where you can find large mammals like elephants, rhinos, lions, and giraffes.
Why does India have to export cheetahs?
Cheetahs were declared extinct by the Government of India in 1952. These cheetahs are also known as goodwill ambassadors, who got completely wiped out in India due to sport hunting, use for coursing, habitat loss, and many other reasons.
The Maharaja of MP’s Koriya, Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo is believed to have killed the country’s last 3 remaining cheetahs in 1947.
The efforts to re-establish these big cats were started in the 1970s. Now the government has taken initiative to bring them back after 74 years.
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