Prime Minister Narendra Modi will release these cheetahs into the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh on his birthday on September 17 as part of a re-introduction effort.
A specially customised B747 jumbo jet has arrived in the Namibian capital of Windhoek to bring eight cheetahs to India's Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh where they will be re-introduced after the wild cats faced extinction in the 1950s.
"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 tweeted on Wednesday.
Eight cheetahs, five females and three males, will be brought to Jaipur in Rajasthan on September 17 in the cargo aircraft as part of an inter-continental translocation project.
They will then be flown to their new home -- Kuno National Park in the Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh -- in helicopters.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will release these cheetahs into the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh on his birthday on September 17.
The aircraft bringing the cheetahs to India has been modified to allow cages to be secured in the main cabin but will still allow vets to have full access to the cats during the flight.
It has been painted with the image of a tiger. The aircraft is an ultra-long range jet capable of flying for up to 16 hours and so can fly directly from Namibia to India without a stop to refuel, an important consideration for the well-being of the cheetahs.
The cheetahs will have to spend their entire air transit period empty stomach, a senior Indian forest department official said on Tuesday. Such a precaution is needed as a long journey may create nausea-like feelings in animals leading to other complications.
The large carnivore got completely wiped out from India due to their use for coursing, sport hunting, overhunting and habitat loss. The government declared the cheetah extinct in the country in 1952.
The last spotted feline died in 1948 in the Sal forests of Chhattisgarh's Koriya district. Starting in the 1970s, the efforts of the Indian government to re-establish the species in its historical ranges in the country led to the signing of a pact with Namibia, which donated the first eight individuals to launch the Cheetah reintroduction programme on July 20 this year.
The Cheetahs in India
The first cheetah in the world to be bred in captivity was in India during the rule of the Mughal emperor Jahangir in 16th Century. His father, Akbar, recorded there were 10,000 cheetahs during his time, including 1,000 of them in his court.
The animals were imported for sport in the 20th Century. Research showed that there were at least 230 cheetahs in the wild between 1799 and 1968. It is the only large mammal to become extinct since Independence.
Hunting, diminishing habitat and non-availability of enough prey - black buck, gazelle and hare - led to the extinction of the cat in India. During the British rule, cheetahs were eliminated through bounty hunting because the cats were entering villages and killing livestock.
India has been making efforts to reintroduce the animal since the 1950s. An effort in the 1970s - from Iran which had around 300 cheetahs at that time - flopped after the Shah of Iran was deposed and the negotiations stopped.
Reintroduction of animals is always fraught with risks. But they are not rare: in 2017, four cheetahs were reintroduced in Malawi, where the cat became extinct in the late 1980s. Their numbers have now risen to 24.
There are some 7,000 cheetahs worldwide
These habitats, according to Dr K Ullas Karanth, one of India's top conservation experts, must be "people free, dog free and leopard or tiger free" with enough wild prey for the cat. He says most of India's former cheetah habitats are shrinking because of pressure on land.
"The purpose of a reintroduction has to be to grow a viable population with dozens of cheetahs breeding in the wild. Just dumping some animals in the park will not help. This is a doomed project," he says.
But wildlife experts like Dr Jhala remain upbeat about the return of the "flagship species" of India's grasslands. "For any reintroduction, you need at least 20 animals," he says. "We are looking at importing 40 cheetahs over the next five years."