South Africa signs deal with India to relocate dozens of cheetahs

FILE PHOTO: A cheetah and her cub walk on the plains in Masai Mara game reserve, Southwest of Kenya's capital Nairobi

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa has signed an agreement with India to introduce dozens of African cheetahs to the Asian country over the next decade, its environmental department said on Thursday, after the first were transferred last year from neighbouring Namibia.

A big cat species similar to the cheetah disappeared from India some 70 years ago.

In September, eight radio-collared African cheetahs were released at Kuno National Park in central India after a 5,000-mile (8,000 km) journey from Namibia, the first time wild cheetahs have been moved across continents to be released.

"An initial batch of 12 cheetah are scheduled to be flown from South Africa to India in February 2023," South Africa's environmental department said in a statement.

The big cats will join those introduced from Namibia.

"The plan is to translocate a further 12 annually for the next eight to 10 years," the department added.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Nellie Peyton, Alexandra Hudson)