PM Modi releases cheetahs at MP’s Kuno National Park, hails ‘important and historic’ moment

At 11.25 Saturday morning, hours after eight African cheetahs landed in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stood on a platform above two crates, and opened their doors, releasing two cheetahs into the quarantine enclosure of the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh. PM Modi was accompanied by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav, as he personally took photographs of the big cats, which have been re-introduced to the country after 70 years.

In his address to the nation soon after, the Prime Minister thanked Namibia for its help and efforts in restoring the carnivore to India, and calling it an “important and historic” moment, said that Project Cheetah was India’s “endeavour towards environment and wildlife conservation”.

The Prime Minister released the cheetahs at two release points in Kuno National Park. The Prime Minister also interacted with Cheetah Mitras, Cheetah Rehabilitation Management Group and students at the venue.

In his address to the nation, the Prime Minister expressed gratitude by highlighting the handful of opportunities that give humanity a chance to rectify the past and build a new future. “Decades ago, the age-old link of biodiversity that was broken and became extinct, today we have a chance to restore it, ” he said. “Today, the cheetah has returned to the soil of India,” he added.

“On this occasion, I congratulate all countrymen and especially our friend country – Namibia – and thank their government, with whose help the Cheetah has returned to India after decades. The conservation of the Cheetah will not only make us aware of our responsibilities towards nature but will also make us aware of our human values and traditions,” said the Prime Minister.

Taking note of Azadi Ka Amrit Kaal, the Prime Minister recalled the ‘Panch Pran’ and highlighted the importance of ‘taking pride in our heritage’ and ‘liberation from the mentality of slavery’. The Prime Minister added, “When we are away from our roots, we tend to lose a lot.” He further recalled that in the last centuries, the exploitation of nature was considered to be a symbol of power and modernity. “In 1947, when only the last three cheetahs were left in the country, they too were hunted mercilessly and irresponsibly in the Sal forests. Even though cheetahs had become extinct from India in 1952, no meaningful effort was made to rehabilitate them for the past seven decades. In the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, the country has started to rehabilitate cheetahs with new energy,” PM Modi said.

Pointing out that years of hard work had gone into making this rehabilitation successful, the Prime Minister said that the utmost energy was deployed for an area that is not given too much political importance.

“A detailed Cheetah Action Plan was prepared while our talented scientists conducted extensive research, working closely with South African and Namibian experts. Scientific surveys were conducted across the country to locate the most suitable area for cheetahs, and then Kuno National Park was chosen. Today, our hard work is in front of us as a result, ” he said.

The Prime Minister said that with the cheetahs now in Kuno National Park, the grassland ecosystem will be restored and it will also lead to an increase in biodiversity as well as increase eco-tourism and employment opportunities in the region.

On a cautionary note, the Prime Minister requested “all countrymen” to be “patient” and wait for a few months before visiting the park to see the cheetahs.

“Today these cheetahs have come as guests, and are unfamiliar with this area. For these cheetahs to be able to make Kuno National Park their home, we have to give them a few months’ time. International guidelines are being followed and India is trying its best to settle these cheetahs. We must not allow our efforts to fail,” the Prime Minister said.

The Prime Minister pointed out that today when the world looks at nature and the environment, it talks about sustainable development. “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, ” he said. “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 added.

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 adding that “the India of the 21st century” is giving a message to the whole world that economy and ecology are not conflicting fields.

“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. Since the formation of our 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. Decades of hard work, research-based policies and public participation have a big role behind this”, he said adding that the numbers of tigers, lions and even the once critically endangered one-horned Rhino has been on the rise, and elephant numbers have increased to 30,000 in the country.

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