NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday 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 today, 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.
The Prime Minister also interacted with Cheetah Mitras, Cheetah Rehabilitation Management Group and students at the venue.
Addressing the nation on the occasion, 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 Prime Minister underlined that this monumental occasion has led to the nature-loving consciousness of India being awakened with full force. Modi congratulated all the countrymen 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 cheetahs had become extinct from India in 1952, no meaningful effort was made to rehabilitate them for the past seven decades.
“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 Prime Minister further added that scientific surveys were conducted across the country to locate the most suitable area for cheetahs, 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.
He 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.”
Prime Minister urged all the countrymen to act with patience and wait for a few months to witness the cheetahs released in Kuno National Park.
“Today these cheetahs have come as guests, and are unaware of this area. For these cheetahs to be able to make Kuno National Park their home, we have to give them a few months’ time,” he remarked.
PM stressed that international guidelines are being followed and India is trying its best to settle these cheetahs.
“For India, nature and environment, its animals and birds, are not just about sustainability and security but the basis of India’s sensibility and spirituality. We are taught to care about even the smallest creatures living around us. Our traditions are such that if the life of a living being goes away without any reason, then we are filled with guilt. Then how can we accept that the existence of an entire species is lost because of us?” he stated.
The Prime Minister added that today cheetahs are found in some countries of Africa, and in Iran, however, India’s name was removed from that list long ago. “Children will not have to go through this irony in the years to come. I am sure, they will be able to see the cheetah running in their own country, in Kuno National Park. Today a big void in our forest and life is being filled through the cheetah,” he said.
PM Modi remarked that the India of the 21st century is giving a message to the whole world that economy and ecology are not conflicting fields. He said that India is a living and breathing example that economic progress of the country can take place along with protecting the environment. “Today, on one hand, we are included in the fastest growing economies of the world, at the same time the forest areas of the country are also expanding rapidly,” he said.
Prime Minister said that since the formation of his government in 2014, about 250 new protected areas have been added in the country. There has also been a big increase in the number of Asiatic lions here and Gujarat has emerged as a dominating sphere of Asiatic lions in the country.
PM further pointed out that country has achieved the target of doubling the number of tigers ahead of time. He recalled when the existence of one-horned rhinoceros was in danger in Assam, but today their number has also gone up. The number of elephants has also increased to more than 30,000 in the last few years.
He said that the life and needs of crores of people all over the world are dependent on wetland ecology.
“Today 75 wetlands in the country have been declared as Ramsar sites, of which 26 sites have been added in the last four years,” he added.
According to Prime Minister’s Office, Project Cheetah is in line with the Prime Minister’s commitment to environmental protection and wildlife conservation, and will also lead to enhanced livelihood opportunities for the local community through eco-development and ecotourism activities.
The historic reintroduction of Cheetahs in India is part of a long series of measures for ensuring sustainability and environment protection in the last eight years which has resulted in significant achievements in the area of environment protection and sustainability.