New Delhi (The Hawk): Prime Minister Narendra Modi will release cheetahs being brought from Namibia in Madhya Pradesh's Kuno National Park on Saturday morning, an official said on Friday.

He will arrive at the Gwalior airport from New Delhi at around 9.20 am and leave for Kuno National Park (KNP) in Sheopur district, about 165km away, where he will release cheetahs into quarantine enclosures at around 10.45 am, the official said.

The special cargo plane carrying eight cheetahs from Namibia will land at the Gwalior airport in Madhya Pradesh at around 6 am on September 17, which is also Modi's birthday, said a senior police official.

The felines will be then shifted to KNP in a helicopter.

As per the earlier plan, the special plane carrying the big cats from the African country was to land at the Jaipur airport, from where they were to be flown to KNP, around 400km from the Rajasthan capital.

The release of wild cheetahs by the prime minister in KNP is part of his efforts to revitalise and diversify India's wildlife and its habitat, said a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on Thursday.

The introduction of the fastest land animal in India is being done under Project Cheetah, which is world's first inter-continental large wild carnivore translocation project, the statement said.

Cheetahs will help in the restoration of open forest and grassland ecosystems in India.

This will help conserve biodiversity and enhance ecosystem services like water security, carbon sequestration and soil moisture conservation, benefiting the society at large, it said.

After releasing cheetahs, Modi will take part in a plantation programme at Karahal in Sheopur district and later arrive in a local school to participate in a conference of women self-help groups (SHGs), said officials.

After the SHG programme, the PM will arrive in Gwalior and after a brief stay in the city, leave for New Delhi in the afternoon, they said.

Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minster released a glimpse of a cheetah arriving at KNP which sounds 'Meow' on his Twitter handle.

'It is a matter of extreme happiness that cheetahs are coming to Kuno National Park. We the people of Madhya Pradesh are eager to welcome our new guests,' Chouhan said in a tweet.

'Project Cheetah' proposal was prepared in 2008-09, approved by Manmohan Singh govt: Cong

Meanwhile, the Congress said on Friday that the proposal for 'Project Cheetah' was prepared in 2008-09 and approved by the then Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government.

The opposition party also said that in 2013, the Supreme Court had stayed the project, and in 2020, that the apex court allowed it, paving the way for the cheetahs to come to India.

'The proposal for 'Project Cheetah' was prepared in 2008-09. Manmohan Singh's government gave approval to it. The then Forest and Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, went to Cheetah outreach centre in South Africa in April 2010,' the Congress said in a tweet.

In 2013, the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the Cheetah Reintroduction Programme and in 2020 allowed it, the party said, adding that now the cheetahs are coming.

The Congress also tweeted a picture of Ramesh at the Cheetah Outreach Centre in South Africa in 2010.

In a tweet, Ramesh shared an article he had written in a daily a few weeks ago that gave a history of why and how today's event of the cheetah's arriving in India was made possible.

In his piece, Ramesh had also talked about his visit to the Cheetah Outreach Centre in Cape Town and the efforts under the programme back then.


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