A cheetah was recently spotted roaming the wild in India for the first time in over seven decades, officials said.
The sighting comes on the heels of a species reintroduction effort spearheaded by the Indian government.
The spotted cats once prowled the Indian subcontinent, but they were decimated by hunters and habitat loss, among other factors, and were declared extinct in 1952, according to a statement from the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
But, a recent plan drawn up by the Indian government stipulated that 10 to 12 cheetahs will be transported to India from African countries every year for at least five years.
As part of the plan, eight cheetahs were shipped over from Namibia in September, and 12 more were shipped from South Africa in February, officials said.
An #IAF C-17 aircraft carrying the second batch of 12 #Cheetahs landed at AF Station Gwalior today, after a 10 hour flight from Johannesburg, South Africa.
These Cheetahs will now be airlifted in IAF helicopters and released in the #KunoNationalPark. pic.twitter.com/Pk0YXcDtAV
— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) February 18, 2023
The cats were placed in large, ventilated boxes and airlifted via planes and helicopters to Kuno National Park, a wildlife sanctuary in central India.
And now, for the first time in 70 years, one of the animals was photographed wandering through the open forest, according to a March 21 statement from Kuno National Park.
The photo was snapped by a park official who is tasked with monitoring the big cats, according to India Today.
After a period of quarantine, the animals will be let loose in a larger enclosure, according to the outlet.
Big day for the cheetah reintroduction programme undertaken because of the decisive leadership of PM Shri @narendramodi ji!
Two cheetahs (one male and one female) have been released into the wild in Kuno National Park from their enclosures.
Both cheetahs are doing good. pic.twitter.com/EoQNQNXu7L
— Bhupender Yadav (@byadavbjp) March 11, 2023
The government is hopeful that the rewilding effort will be a success, officials said. It is backed by a team of international experts, veterinarians and scientists.
Google Translate was used to translate the statement from Kuno National Park.