Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi released several of eight radio-collared African cheetahs onto the grassland of Kuno National Park in central India today, a date that coincides with his birthday.

The release of the big cats - the fastest land animal on Earth - is the culmination of a 13-year effort to restore a species which vanished from India some 70 years ago.

The cheetahs arrived at their final destination after a 8,000km journey from Namibia which drew criticism from some conservationists.

If all goes well with their acclimation to Kuno, the cats will be released to run through 5, of forest and grassland, sharing the landscape with leopards, sloth bears and striped hyenas.

Another 12 cheetahs are expected to join the fledgling Indian population next month from South Africa.

And as India gathers more funding for the 910 million rupee (€11.4 million) project, largely financed by the state-owned Indian Oil, it hopes to eventually grow the population to around 40 cats.

Mr Modi called for people to be patient as the cats adjust. "For them to be able to make Kuno National Park their home, we'll have to give these cheetahs a few months' time."