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As a part of an ambitious project to reintroduce the extinct spotted cat species in the country, the first batch of 12 cheetahs from South Africa is expected to reach India in October this year, said officials as quoted by news agency PTI.

The wildlife experts team from South Africa visited India to inspect the holding facility where the cheetahs will be released and returned back to their country on Friday.

A total of nine cheetahs have been kept under quarantine at the Rooiberg Veterinary Services run by wildlife veterinarian Dr. Andy Fraser in Limpopo province, while the other three were quarantined at Phinda game reserve in KwaZulu-Natal province, the officials told PTI.

"I and South African cheetah expert Prof Adrian Tordiffe will accompany the cat species animals to India next month. They are expected to reach next month. However, the exact date has not been confirmed yet. They will follow the eight cheetahs, which are expected to be sent to India from neighboring Namibia next week," Fraser said.

He stated there has been a massive collaboration between the nature conservation departments and the veterinarians of the two countries----India and South Africa.

As per PTI reports, the Cheetah Metapopulation project was spearheaded by wildlife expert Vincent van der Merwe, who said that the cheetah population in India would have to reach about 500 for it to be genetically viable.

Dr. Fraser said that sending 20 cheetahs this year will not lead to a viable genetic population, hence there should be a large enough population.

"Generally, cheetahs can breed rapidly under good conditions, however, the reserves where these animals from South Africa will be kept have a very low tiger population. These reserves have very high levels of leopard populations. There are higher chances that some of the cubs born in India can be killed by competing predators. So, we will determine how quickly they will breed here," he added.

For the first time, the animals are being sent to India where its population has become extinct in the early 1950s, Fraser said, adding that the last confirmed was seen in 1953.

During the flight to India, the cheetahs will be fully awake in their transport crates and would be tranquilized to keep them calm.

After reaching India, the cheetahs would be released from their transport crates into a holding facility for the Indian team to monitor their health and to ensure that they are hunting again before releasing them into the reserve which will be their final destination.


(With PTI inputs)

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