Customs Deptt gave speedy clearances to plane carrying cheetahs after change in landing destination: Official
   Date :22-Sep-2022
Customs Deptt
Even as the landing destination of the special plane carrying eight cheetahs from Namibia was changed to Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh from Jaipur in Rajasthan, the Customs Department fast-tracked the clearances so that these animals reach the Kuno National Park as per schedule last week, an official said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 17 released three of these eight cheetahs brought from Namibia into a quarantine enclosure at the KNP in MP’s Sheopur district as part of a project to revive the population of the animal which became extinct in India in 1952.
The transcontinental journey of more than 8,000 km of the cheetahs-five female and three male and aged between 30 to 66 months- from Namibia had begun on Friday night.
A modified Boeing 747 plane carrying eight cheetahs landed at the Gwalior airbase at 7.47 am. The animals were then flown by two Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters to Palpur near the Park, 165 km away.
“As per the earlier plan, the special plane bringing the felines was scheduled to land in Rajasthan’s Jaipur on September 17. However, the plan was changed and the aircraft landed in Gwalior,” an official of the customs department involved in the process told PTI on Wednesday.
The official said that he came to know about this change in plan in the plane's landing destination-Gwalior instead of Jaipur - on September 15.
The Customs Department, in close co-ordination with the Forest Department and other Government agencies, gave all clearances speedily so that the special plane can land at Gwalior instead of Jaipur to ensure the early arrival of cheetahs from Namibia to the KNP, he said. “We came to know that cheetahs are being brought empty stomach from Namibia to India and need to be taken to the KNP at the earliest. So we completed the process speedily,” the official said.He said that a 15-member team of the customs officers was stationed in Gwalior to facilitate the journey of cheetahs to the KNP. The KNP, spread over an area of 750 sq km, is situated on the northern side of Vindhyachal mountains. The last cheetah died in the country in 1947 in Korea district in present-day Chhattisgarh and the species was declared extinct from India in 1952. The African Cheetah Introduction Project in India was conceived in 2009. A plan to introduce the big cat in the KNP by November last year had suffered a setback due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said.