(CNN) Twelve cheetahs have arrived in India as part of efforts to revive the species after decades of extinction in the country.
The big cats from South Africa were flown in from Johannesburg on Saturday, This was announced by the Indian Air Force.
The cheetahs will join eight cheetahs that were also translocated to Kuno National Park from Namibia.
The cheetahs will next be flown out in India Air Force helicopters and released to their final destination, Kuno National Park in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. They will join eight cheetahs that were translocated from Namibia last September.
The cheetahs are part of an initiative by India and South Africa to reintroduce the cheetah to India, according to a joint statement by India’s Department of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and South Africa’s Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment.
The initiative would “expand the cheetah metapopulation and reintroduce cheetahs to a former range following their local extinction due to overhunting and habitat loss over the last century,” the statement said.
Cheetahs were declared extinct in India in 1952, she added.
The 12 cheetahs are all “wild born” and familiar with their natural enemies, according to the statement. Other big cats and eagles are known to prey on cheetahs.
In January, the South African Environment Agency announced it had a plan to relocate 12 cheetahs annually for the next “eight to 10 years.”
Cheetahs are found in southern and eastern Africa, particularly Namibia, Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania, with fewer than 7,000 in the wild, according to the World Wide Fund (WWF).
But the animals used to live much more widely. Historically, cheetahs roamed the Middle East and central India and most of sub-Saharan Africa. Habitat loss, poaching, and conflicts with humans have severely reduced their populations.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the origin of the 12 cheetahs. It’s South Africa.