When a local king in central India shot dead three cheetahs in 1947, he killed what were believed to be the last of these creatures in the country, and they were declared extinct in India five years later.
On Friday, eight of these wild cats, the world’s fastest land animals, were flown from Namibia in Africa to India as part of an effort to reintroduce them into the country.
The global population of cheetahs is 6,500 to 7,100, according to a list of threatened animals from the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Africa is home to most of the cheetahs, which are extinct across Asia, except in Iran. They are disappearing in large part because of poaching, shrinking habitats and a loss of prey.
“To save cheetahs from extinction, we need to create permanent places for them on Earth. India has areas of grassland and forest habitat, which are appropriate for this species,” said Laurie Marker, founder of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, an international nonprofit that has helped the Indian and Namibian governments with the relocation effort.