India announced on Wednesday that one of eight cheetahs displaced from Namibia has given birth to four cubs, decades after the species was declared extinct in 1952 in the South Asian country.
India’s Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav posted a photo and video of the cheetah cubs on Twitter, calling the event “momentous”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the “wonderful news”, also on Twitter.
According to Indian media, a second Namibian cheetah is expected to give birth soon.
Eight Namibian cheetahs were reintroduced to India last year.
Earlier this year, 12 more cheetahs came from South Africa to swell the first contingent.
The announcement of the birth of the four cheetah cubs comes a few days after the death of one of the Namibian cheetahs in Kuno National Park, a nature reserve located 320 kilometers south of New Delhi, victim of kidney failure.
The Asiatic cheetah has been officially extinct in India since 1952.
Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo is said to have killed the last three specimens recorded in India in the late 1940s.
This subspecies, which once roamed the Middle East, Central Asia and India, is now only found in very small numbers in Iran.
The disappearance of the cheetah in India is mainly attributed to hunters, who coveted its precious light tawny fur, covered with round spots, but also to the loss of its habitat.
The cheetah is listed as “Vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.