Bhopal / Dehradun: Amid buzz about reintroduction of cheetahs in India, senior officials of the Madhya Pradesh forest department on Friday said they are unaware about the exact plans of the arrival of the animals to the state's Kuno-Palpur National Park (KNP).

There were earlier speculations that the cheetahs will arrive in the state by August 15 and arrangements such as setting up an enclosure have been made at the KNP. "We are not aware of their arrival till now, as it is a matter between the Central government and foreign countries involved in the project," the state's principal chief conservator of forest (Wildlife) J S Chauhan said.

India had last month signed a MoU with the Namibian government for procuring the cheetahs in the KNP under the ambitious reintroduction project.

The official also refused to comment on whether the cheetahs being procured from Namibia and South Africa will arrive together or separately.

The Centre has already signed an agreement with Namibia for the intercontinental translocation of cheetahs, but the one proposed with South Africa is not yet signed, an official said.

Earlier, a senior official when asked about the plan to re-introduction of cheetahs on Indian soil said that they are working on it and the fastest animal on earth will arrive here in August.

When specifically asked about the date, August 15, the forest department's principal secretary Ashok Barnwal had said, "It can be." Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) dean and senior professor Yadvendradev Vikramsinh Jhala, popularly known as Y V Jhala, had earlier told PTI when asked if cheetahs will come to India on the occasion of Independence Day, "I don't know, but it is possible also." The KNP in Sheopur district has already made preparations for housing 12 to 15 cheetahs and has earmarked an area of 5 sq km with eight compartments for initially keeping the translocated animals. The national park is spread in an area of over 750 sq km and is capable of handling cheetahs, as it has maintained a large prey base of cheetal, sambhar, blue bull, wild boar and langoor among others, he said.

The country's last spotted cheetah died in Chhattisgarh, undivided Madhya Pradesh in 1947 and the animal was declared extinct in the country in 1952.

A few years ago, the WII prepared a cheetah reintroduction project. Kuno, located in the Chambal region, is spread over an area of more than 750 sq km and has a conducive environment for the cheetah, he said.

Earlier, the sanctuary was also shortlisted as the second home of the famous Asiatic Lions of Gujarat, but the programme ran into trouble with the Gujarat government opposing the shifting of lions from Gir forest, the officials said. The issue of translocation has become a bone of contention between the two BJP-ruled states, as the government has refused to part with the Asiatic lions for the neighbouring state, following which a day-long bandh was also observed in Sheopur district in protest.—PTI

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