A Cheetah, which had become extinct from India, was released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Kuno National Park on the occasion of his 72nd birthday, on September 17 | ANI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said bringing cheetahs back to India will help in the restoration of open forest and grassland ecosystems and also lead to enhanced livelihood opportunities for the local community.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who turned 72 on September 17, released cheetahs flown in from Namibia into a special enclosure at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.

Cheetahs – brought from Namibia – are being introduced in India under Project Cheetah, the world’s first inter-continental large wild carnivore translocation project.

Addressing the nation on the occasion, the prime minister expressed gratitude by highlighting a handful of opportunities that give humanity a chance to rectify the past and build a new future.

PM Modi said: “Decades ago, the age-old link of biodiversity that was broken and became extinct, today we have a chance to restore it. Today the cheetah has returned to the soil of India.”

The PM underlined that this monumental occasion has led to the nature-loving consciousness of India being awakened with full force. Modi congratulated all his fellow citizens on this historic occasion while making a special mention of Namibia and its government with whose cooperation, the cheetahs have returned to Indian soil after decades.

“I am sure, these cheetahs will not only make us aware of our responsibilities towards nature but will also make us aware of our human values and traditions,” he said.

PM Modi remarked that even though these fastest mammals had become extinct in India in 1952, no meaningful effort was made to rehabilitate them for the past seven decades.

An African Cheetah going through 1st health exam by an international team of experts at Cheetah Conservation Fund before settling in the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh | ANI

“In 1947, when only the last three cheetahs were left in the country, they too were hunted mercilessly and irresponsibly in the Sal forests,” he added.

He mentioned that a detailed cheetah action plan was prepared while Indian scientists conducted extensive research, working closely with South African and Namibian experts. The PM further added that scientific surveys were conducted across the country to locate the most suitable area for these big cats, and then Kuno National Park was chosen for this auspicious start.

The prime minister reiterated that when nature and the environment are protected, the future becomes secure and the avenues for growth and prosperity open up.

Modi said: “When the cheetahs sprint in Kuno National Park, the grassland eco-system will be restored and it will also lead to an increase in biodiversity. Employment opportunities will increase as a result of the growing eco-tourism in the area thereby opening up new possibilities for development.”

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