Special plane carrying cheetahs from Namibia to touch down in MP's Gwalior: Official

A special aeroplane with a picture of a tiger in Namibia. Eight cheetahs will travel from Namibia to India to reach Kuno-Palpur National Park in Bhopal. Photo: PTI

Bhopal: A day before the scheduled arrival of eight cheetahs from Namibia, the authorities revealed that the landing destination of the special cargo plane carrying these felines has been changed - from Jaipur in Rajasthan to Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh.

These cheetahs will be flown to Gwalior early on Saturday morning, from where they will be carried in a special helicopter to the Kuno National Park (KNP) in the Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi will release three of them into the park's quarantine enclosures, an official said.

As per the earlier plan, the special plane carrying these animals was to land in Jaipur from the African country, from where they were scheduled to be flown to the KNP.

Talking to PTI on Friday, principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF) wildlife, J S Chauhan, said, "The cheetahs will arrive in Gwalior and from there they will be flown in a special helicopter to the KNP."

The eight cheetahs - five females and three males will be brought from Namibia's capital Windhoek to Gwalior airport in a customised Boeing 747-400 aircraft, officials have said earlier.

Chauhan confirmed that the cheetahs from Gwalior will be shifted to the KNP helipad in the Indian Air Force (IAF) Chinook heavy-lift helicopter.

According to the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), an international not-for-profit organisation headquartered in Namibia and dedicated to saving the cheetah in the wild, the five female cheetahs are aged between two and five years and the male cheetahs are aged between 4.5 years and 5.5 years.

The last cheetah in India died in 1947 in Korea district in present-day Chhattisgarh, which was earlier part of Madhya Pradesh, and the species was declared extinct from India 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.

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