Bhopal: At least seven helipads are being constructed in and around the Kuno National Park (KNP) in Madhya Pradesh’s Sheopur district where the cheetah reintroduction project will be carried out, officials said.
A team from South Africa (SA) is scheduled to arrive there on Tuesday, they said.
Wildlife Institute of India (WII) dean and senior professor Yadvendradev Vikramsinh Jhala, who is playing an important role in the cheetah translocation plan, is also scheduled to reach the KNP on Tuesday, an official said.
The helipads are being constructed amid indications that Prime Minister Narendra Modi might arrive to inaugurate the ambitious project, under which cheetahs will be brought from South Africa and Namibia.
Three helipads are being built inside the KNP and four are coming up outside the park for the expected VVIP movement, a top official told PTI.
Asked if the Prime Minister would be inaugurating the project on his birthday September 17, the official did not confirm, saying things will be clear soon.
Sheopur Public Works Department’s executive engineer Sankalp Golya confirmed to PTI that the helipads are being constructed.
“We have not got any written official information that the prime minister is coming on September 17,” MP principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) J S Chauhan told PTI.
“”We have not received any written official intimation about the arrival of cheetahs on September 17. In all likelihood, the cheetahs will arrive in KNP this month. But I can’t confirm that they will land on September 17,” he said.
Meanwhile, a team from South Africa, which was at the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, is scheduled to arrive in the KNP on Tuesday, a forest official said.
South Africa is yet to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) draft for exporting cheetahs from there. Understandably, the team is coming to the KNP to clear some issues before sending the animals.
According to officials, cheetahs had been quarantined in Namibia and were ready to be flown to India.
Last month, India was expected to lift the spotted animals from the two countries, but the plan did not work.
The cheetahs will be kept in an enclosure for two to three months before being released into the wild, officials said.
Twelve cheetahs, including four to five females, have been vaccinated and quarantined for a month as part of preparations to airlift them to India, they said.
“Extensive hunting of cheetahs and habitat loss led to their extinction. The last three cheetahs were killed by the Raja of Korea in the forests that are now part of Ghasidas National Park,” said wildlife expert Ajay Dubey.
The last cheetah died in the country in 1947 in the Korea district in present day Chhattisgarh, which was earlier part of Madhya Pradesh, and the species was declared extinct in 1952.
The ‘African Cheetah Introduction Project in India’ was conceived in 2009 and a plan to introduce the big cat by November last year in KNP suffered a setback due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said.