SOUTH Africa has signed an agreement to introduce dozens of African cheetahs to India over the next decade.
The first batch of 12 cheetahs will be sent next month, the South African environment department said.
It plans to send a similar number annually for the next eight to 10 years to help establish a “viable and secure cheetah population”.
Asian cheetahs became extinct in India in the late 1940s because of excessive hunting and loss of habitat.
In 2020 India’s Supreme Court ruled that African cheetahs, a different subspecies, could be brought into the country at a “carefully chosen location” on an experimental basis.
The selected South African cheetahs have been living in quarantine after their planned translocation last August was delayed while the final details were agreed.
“The cheetahs in quarantine… are all still doing well,” said Adrian Tordiffe, a veterinary wildlife specialist at the University of Pretoria, who is involved in the project, AFP news agency reported.
India received eight cheetahs from Namibia last year and they were released at Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh state.
The park, 320km (200 miles) south of New Delhi, is a wildlife sanctuary with abundant prey and grasslands.
However, some conservationists argue that the translocation of cheetahs may not be successful as the reserves are close to densely populated villages.