A B747 Jumbo Jet landed in Namibia on Thursday to ferry eight cheetahs who will be introduced into the Indian wildlife by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 17. The jumbo jet landed in the Namibian capital of Windhoek to ferry the big cat as part of one of the world’s biggest inter-continental translocation projects.
The B747 has been painted with the face of a tiger, signifying the importance of the flight mission.
“A special bird touches down in the Land of the Brave to carry goodwill ambassadors to the Land of the Tiger,” the High Commission of India in Windhoek said in a tweet.
The aircraft has been specially customized to introduce cages to ferry the live cargo from one continent to another. The aircraft has been modified to suit the requirement of transporting the cheetahs through the vast expanse of savannah and into Asia. They have been fitted with special cages that will allow access to the veterinary staff assisting in the translocation project.
The plane will land in Jaipur upon its return and the Cheetahs will then be flown to Kuno National Park in the Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh via helicopter. The Cheetahs will be introduced in the national park by the prime minister on his birthday, completing a decade-long project that has been delayed several times in the past.
The 'African Cheetah Introduction Project in India' was first conceived in 2009 and a plan was made to introduce the big cat by November last year in the national park. However, the project was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the successive lockdowns, officials said.
The Kunno National Park in Madhya Pradesh has been chosen as the optimum location to introduce the extinct animal for its good prey base for Cheetahs. The park has a good population of Chinkara, Spotted Deer, and Blackbuck, on which the Cheetahs can prey and grow in the wild.
The Asiatic cheetah was declared extinct in India in 1952 after Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo shot the last offspring of the species in 1947.