The world’s fastest land animal will bolt across the grasslands of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, its muscular, rudderlike tail propelling its lithe body as the cat cuts through air with 22-foot-long strides. The blackbuck, chinkara and hares destined to become its lunch will never know what hit them: one, because it will be over in three seconds, which is all the carnivore needs to go from 0 to 100 km/hr, just like a Formula E race car; and two, because the hunter on their tail is a stranger. You see, the prey in these parts are familiar with local predators—tigers, leopards, sloth bears, wolves, jackals, foxes and smaller wild cats. They will never know that the jaws sinking into their jugulars belong to an African cheetah that was flown in from Namibia.
The sight of a cheetah—a feline so graceful, it makes Bolshoi ballet look ungainly—on Indian soil has been the fevered dream of governments that have come and gone since 1952. That was the year the