This will send your heart racing. Cheetahs will again run wild in India — for the first time since Independence –as 20 of the majestic cats will be introduced here from Africa in November this year.

Kuno National Park, will be cheetah country, and this may be the year when Madhya Pradesh, which already has the tags of ‘Tiger and Leopard State’ also gets the cheetah crown – and the ‘spot’light. Madhya Pradesh forest minister Vijay Shah announced this at an event at Van Vihar National Park in Bhopal. “Ten male and 10 female cheetahs will be flown from South Africa to Gwalior in two phases in November. From there, they will be sent by road to Kuno in Sheopur district (about 150km),” Shah said.

The last cheetah in the country died in Chhattisgarh in 1947 and it was declared extinct in India in 1952. The cheetah reintroduction project is a long cherished dream in the country, with many states vying for the honour. In 2019, Supreme Court had approved a proposal from National Tiger Conservation Authority to experimentally introduce African cheetahs in Indian jungles. The project has raced through the last few months.

In March, experts from Wildlife Institute of India (WII) undertook a month long survey of Kuno wildlife sanctuary. By then, WII had already concluded that cheetahs can be reintroduced at all the surveyed sites in MP with appropriate ‘investments’, and that Kuno is “ready” for immediate reintroduction, with the least investment.