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Cheetahs, the world’s fastest mammals, are set to be reintroduced to India. The cheetah is the only large carnivore that got completely wiped out from India, mainly due to over-hunting and habitat loss. The country's last spotted cheetah died in Sal forests of Chhattisgarh's Koriya district in 1948 and the wild animal was declared extinct in the country in 1952.

The Cheetahs will be brought from Namibia to India on 17 September. The cheetah will be brought in a special cargo flight Boeing -717 and will land in Gwalior. They will be then brought to Kuno National Park in a helicopter. 

While speaking to news agency ANI, SP Yadav, Project Cheetah chief, said, “Cheetahs coming from Namibia will now land in Gwalior, earlier it was supposed to land in Jaipur on September 17 then from a helicopter from Gwalior brought to KUNO National Park Sheopur."

He further added, "We are bringing cheetahs by a special chartered cargo plane Boeing -717. This is a bigger plane and will come directly to India without refuelling and that is why we selected this aircraft. This is a dedicated aircraft and it will have eight cheetahs. Along with crew members, in addition to our officers and some veterinary doctors, wildlife experts, cheetah experts and our three Indian scientists, doctors and officers will be onboard in the plane from Namibia."

"Laurie Marker, who is a cheetah expert, will be accompanied by three more biologists and all these people will come by chartered flight, special wooden kits have been used to bring Cheetah which is made according to the international standards, which has the facility of air movement," he said.

Cheetah Project Chief further said that the charter flight with Cheetah is likely to depart from Namibia by today evening and will land in India tomorrow.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of his birthday on September 17, will release cheetahs in Kuno National Park. PM Modi at around 10:45 am on Saturday, will release cheetahs.

The release of wild cheetahs by the Prime Minister in Kuno National Park is part of his efforts to revitalise and diversify India's wildlife and its habitat. 

The cheetahs that would be released are from Namibia and have been brought under an MoU signed earlier this year. The introduction of cheetahs in India is being done under Project Cheetah, which is the world's first intercontinental large wild carnivore translocation project.

Cheetahs will help in the restoration of open forest and grassland ecosystems in India. This will help conserve biodiversity and enhance the ecosystem services like water security, carbon sequestration and soil moisture conservation, benefiting society at large. This effort, in line with PM's commitment to environmental protection and wildlife conservation, will also lead to enhanced livelihood opportunities for the local community through eco-development and ecotourism activities.

Tourism Boost in Madhya Pradesh

Tourism around Madhya Pradesh's Kuno-Palpur National Park (KPNP) is likely to get a fillip once it becomes the new home of cheetahs which are being brought from Namibia. 

New jobs will also be created for local residents as tourist inflow will grow manifold, they said. There is an excitement among local residents as they eagerly wait for the spotted guests from Africa to arrive at the national park. “People here are very enthusiastic. We are constructing a resort at Morawan on around 6-bigha (around two acres) land which will have 14 rooms, a swimming pool, a restaurant and other amenities for tourists," Rishiraj Singh Palpur, who belongs to an erstwhile royal family, told news agency PTI.

The tourist facility is around 15km away from the national park's main entry gate, he said. He said presence of cheetahs in the national park will increase tourist footfalls and lead to improvement in facilities for visitors in Sheopur district and its adjoining areas. 

Ashok Sarraf, the owner of a "Midway Treat" franchise of the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board, expressed hope business will grow after September 17. He said a hotel is also being constructed under the franchise of the MP Tourism Board in Sheopur. 

Manoj Sarraf, the owner of an under-construction hotel and resort on Sheopur-Sawai Madhopur Road, said his facility will have 35 rooms along with a swimming pool, a meeting hall, gym and other amenities. 

Besides people involved in the hospitality industry, residents of villages like Morawan, Sesaipura, Tiktoli, Adwada, Hathedi and Chakrana are also enthusiastic about the project. This project will bring development in the area and cheetahs will become main attraction for tourists, said Kamal Singh, a resident of Sesaipura, a village located near the park's entry. 

A forest officer said that on arrival the cheetahs will be first kept in small enclosures for a month and then in bigger ones for a couple of months for acclimatization and familiarisation with surroundings. Later, they will be released in the wild, he said. 

"We have set up six small quarantine enclosures as per legal mandate required during the shifting of animals from one continent to another," the official said earlier. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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