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Typhoon Mawar Lashes Guam; Wagner Group Claims Control of Bakhmut; DeSantis to Kick Off Presidential Campaign; Madeleine McCann Search Continues at Portuguese Reservoir; Drone Strike on Al Qaeda Leader May Have Killed Civilian; Ukrainian Forces Embrace Unconventional Tactics; Debt Limit Drama over Spending Cuts; India's Cheetah Reintroduction Program off to Rough Start. Aired 10-10:40a ET

Aired May 24, 2023 - 10:00   ET




ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I am Eleni Giokos, live from Abu Dhabi. This is CONNECT THE WORLD.

Coming up this hour, Typhoon Mawar is pummeling Guam, bringing strong winds and heavy rain.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis is set to officially jump into the U.S. presidential race.

Remembering Uvalde, a Texas mass shooting left 19 elementary school students and two teachers dead one year ago today.

And Cristiano Ronaldo impresses his Saudi fans with another brilliant goal.


GIOKOS: Typhoon Mawar, the strongest storm to hit the U.S. territory of Guam in decades, is lashing the island with devastating winds and

torrential rainfall.

The eye of the typhoon passed north of the Pacific island a few hours ago. But the eyewall, the strongest part of the storm, is still wreaking havoc.

Many residents in coastal areas are bracing for considerable damage from storm surges and were forced to evacuate their homes.


GIOKOS: I want to bring in CNN's Anna Coren in Hong Kong.

Anna, we just heard from Derek, very strong winds, many more millimeters of rain expected. We saw that impact of rising water levels. I want you to

give me a sense of how people are preparing for the intensity to continue, as we heard, for the next few days.

ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Look, Eleni. As you can imagine, communications with Guam are pretty much down. The electrical grids, power

grids have basically been taken out. So as far as communications go, it has been pretty haphazard.

However, we did hear from the weather service a few hours ago. They held a press conference. They said, come midnight local time, which is roughly

about now, that things should subside.


COREN: Obviously, Derek is a meteorologist and he knows exactly what is happening. But when they held that press conference a couple of hours ago,

they talked about hearing the doors and windows of that weather service building moving and vibrating; they could hear things crashing outside.

So that eyewall hitting Guam -- obviously it did not make landfall as was predicted -- but that eyewall bringing winds, heavy rain which Derek spoke

about, still causing great concern.

But this is an island of 150,000 people. They are very much accustomed to these typhoons, which come through the Pacific Ocean.

Everyone has been told to take cover, to take shelter, to hunker down for the night, keep away from doors and windows. Guam has a huge U.S. military

presence and they say they are very much ready to come to anybody's aid.

But look, we will not know about the level of destruction for some hours. It's just past midnight in Guam. According to the weather service, those

winds, they should now start to come off it, start to subside. At least that was the information we received a couple of hours ago, in a Facebook

Live press conference.

But they did say to just hang in there. This must be a very scary experience for everybody living through this. But they said this will all

be over very soon, Eleni.

GIOKOS: That is our hope. As you see these images of heavy rain, very strong winds. Anna, thank you so much.


GIOKOS: Monday's brazen cross border ground assault on Russian soil was a terrorist act. That claim from the country's defense minister, who warns

Moscow will respond extremely harshly to any further attacks.

Meanwhile, CNN has learned that Ukraine was given the heads up about the raid in Belgorod, a Ukrainian defense source tells us. The anti-Putin

Russian nationals claiming responsibility for it, gave Kyiv advanced warning. Ukraine has denied direct involvement.

This comes as the governor of Belgorod says nine people were hospitalized following drone strikes overnight. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is following all of

these developments for us from Kyiv.

Fred, great to have you on. Look, the governor says Tuesday was not a calm night for the region.

What more do we know at this point?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Eleni. Certainly, he said it was not a calm night. In fact, he said there

were drones operating over the Belgorod region for quite some time. He said the air defenses of Russia managed to take many of those drones out but

they did drop some munitions.

As you put it, there are nine people who are in hospital, three who are actually in ICU. So certainly a very difficult situation which continues

there for the Russians.

As you also said, the Russian defense minister coming out, saying there would be a harsh reaction. There do seem to be a lot of questions from the

people on the ground and also from people in general, in Russia, as to how this could have happened.

This region is directly bordering Ukraine. There are some who are asking how the armed Russians, who are fighting against Vladimir Putin, as they

put it, were able to cross into that territory and remain there for more than 24 hours before the Russians then said they had pushed them out and

liquidated dozens of them, as the Russian defense ministry said.

Still, there are people who say, there are some serious questions that need to be asked, especially for instance, the governor of the Belgorod region.

Here is what we're learning.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): The Russian military allegedly fighting back. The Defense Ministry showing video of what it says are strikes against fighters

who allegedly crossed the border from Ukraine.

LT. GEN. IGOR KONASHENKOV, CHIEF SPOKESPERSON, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MILITARY (through translator): The remaining nationalists were thrown out to the

territory of Ukraine where they were shelled until they were fully liquidated.

PLEITGEN: The fighters are anti-Putin Russians calling themselves the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Freedom for Russia Legion. Still, the

Kremlin says it holds Ukraine responsible for the incursion. But in an exclusive interview with CNN, Ukraine's national security adviser brushed

off those claims.

OLEKSIY DANILOV, UKRAINIAN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR (through translator): There is a part of Russians who are on the sight of light and who went to

deal with the darkness that exists in Russia now.

What are the questions to us?

I don't understand at all.

PLEITGEN: Russia claims Ukraine ordered the raid to distract from the situation in Bakhmut where Moscow now claims its forces controlled all of

the city --


PLEITGEN (voice-over): -- that has essentially been reduced to rubble, as these aerial views show.

The national security adviser insists Ukrainian forces still hold part of the town and that the decision to stand and fight despite overwhelming

numbers of Russians was right.

DANILOV (through translator): It was our strategic defense operation which was successful for us, given that we held the territory for 10 months where

we were destroying them every day.

PLEITGEN: Forcing the Russians into a battle of attrition here allowed Ukraine to prepare for a massive counteroffensive he says could begin


DANILOV (through translator): We are clearly aware of when, where, how and watch it start. The final decision is up to the president and the security

staff. When the decision is made, Russia will do definitely feel it.

PLEITGEN: "Greetings from Bakhmut," a graffiti (sic) in one of the videos from the cross-border raid into Russia reads. And the Kremlin already using

the incident to try and justify Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine. Putin himself portraying Moscow as the victim.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): We are often told that Russia has started some kind of war. No. Russia with a special

military operation is trying to stop this war being waged against us.

PLEITGEN: But clearly, not all Russians agree. The groups who say they're behind the cross-border attacks are vowing to battle on defending Ukraine.


PLEITGEN: And Eleni, despite the fact that the Russian defense ministry said many of those fighters were, as they put it, killed, captured or

wounded, the fighters themselves say they actually managed to get back into Ukrainian territory.

Quite interesting, because the head of the Wagner private military company of Russia, Yevgeny Prigozhin, also blasted the Russian military, saying, if

these fighters managed to get into Russian territory that easily, what is to stop them from getting to Moscow next time?

GIOKOS: Yes. Fred Pleitgen, thank you.

Well, some big and entirely expected developments in the 2024 race for U.S. President. Florida governor Ron DeSantis is set to officially launch his

White House bid today. The Republican has made national headlines in the U.S. for his ultraconservative positions on abortion, guns as well as


His so-called "don't say gay" law in schools prompted a feud with Disney. The company recently canceled the project which would have brought 2,000

jobs to the state. CNN's Steve Contorno has covered DeSantis extensively and joins us now from Miami.

Great to have you on, Steve. The governor chose an unusual way to toss his hat into the ring. And that method is on Twitter, with no other than Elon

Musk. Tell us more.

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he will be holding a Twitter conversation with Elon Musk tonight, where he will announce his

presidential campaign and make official what many people knew was coming for months now.

You are right, it is not a conventional choice. The decision to hold it on Twitter is very different than what we have seen from other presidential

candidates. They usually do it with their political hometown or some other place of significance.

But DeSantis has chosen in part, Twitter, because he doesn't see himself running a traditional campaign. People close to his operation said time and

time again they will not run a campaign that you are used to seeing.

But it's also a controversial choice. Elon Musk, since he has taken over Twitter, has generated a lot of concern not only about his stewardship of

this giant tech company but also the way that he has embraced conspiracy theories and far-right figures, as he has created this safe harbor for the

right wing to operate.

But DeSantis has been leaning into this crowd, trying to gain the support of conservative influencers, as he tried to take on Donald Trump in his

primary. And he has a long way to go to topping Donald Trump, who enters this race with a significant advantage over DeSantis, who has been trying

to curry favor with supporters and grassroots operatives for weeks by saying look, Trump, if he got into office, he would be a lame duck

president on day one.

He can only serve a single four year term. I, as a new face, can serve eight years. We can get a lot done over those eight years. I also don't

bring the baggage that Trump brings. I have a better track record with recent elections.

This is the case he privately makes to donors. Finally for the first time, we will see him start to make that case to the public when he enters this

race officially, Eleni.

GIOKOS: Steve, I am curious. This is what he's saying, in terms of putting himself up against Donald Trump.

But is he a strong enough contender in terms of what he brings to the table to take on Donald Trump as the de facto Republican nominee?

CONTORNO: That is definitely the biggest question we have facing us in the United States Republican Party going forward. I don't think we will have a

strong answer until DeSantis and Trump square off on a debate stage. Look, DeSantis is starting from a better position than --


CONTORNO: -- most first time candidates in presidential races. He has more than $100 million behind his campaign. He has really strong name

recognition, especially for a governor who usually only has regional support.

And he has been polling in second place firmly for the past few months, despite all of the attacks he is facing from Donald Trump. So is coming

into a very strong position to challenge Donald Trump, to try to supplant him in the coming months.

GIOKOS: All right, Steve Contorno, great to have you on, thank you for breaking that down for us.

Well, let's move on now. And it's a grim anniversary today in Uvalde, Texas. People are marking one year, it's one year since the massacre at

Robb Elementary School. A gunman gained access to the school and opened fire, killing 19 young students and two teachers.

The attack renewed intense debate about America's gun laws. The slow response by law enforcement has been fiercely criticized. We will have more

on the anniversary and a live report from Uvalde in the next hour. I want you to join us for that.

Hunting for clues in a 16-year-old mystery. Just ahead, police in Portugal spent a second day searching at a reservoir for evidence in Madeleine

McCann's disappearance. We will have a live report with the latest.

The U.S. military says it took out an Al Qaeda leader in a drone strike. But sources tell CNN that was not the case. We will lay out the facts,

coming up.




GIOKOS: Police in Portugal are conducting a second day of searching a reservoir for the remains of Madeleine McCann. She is the British girl who

vanished as a toddler 16 years ago at a resort 50 kilometers away from the search area.

This is not the first time the area has been searched but it's the first active search operation for her in almost a decade. German authorities told

CNN this new search is due to a tip they received. CNN correspondent Scott McLean now joins us.

Great to have you on.

What have authorities discovered, if anything, during the second day of the search?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Eleni, this search was supposed to go on for two days. This is day two. It may well, according to our colleagues at

CNN Portugal, end today. But it really depends on what they find.

What they have found so far is a few items they are sending for examination but nothing confirmed to be relevant to the reason they are searching in

the first place. Part of the reason they are there is because photos found on the computer of the German suspect, Christian Bruckner, show this dam

and this reservoir area.

Apparently, he went there quite often. But we are talking about a pretty vast area. Police say they aren't searching the whole thing but a defined



MCLEAN: Yesterday, we saw police working mostly by the shoreline. They were prodding the ground with sticks in some cases. They also have the

benefit of ground penetrating radar as well.

Today, we have seen some activity near the shoreline. We have also seen that, which is heavy duty equipment brought in to clear some of this brush

a bit further away from the water.

The water has actually been searched before, Eleni, back in 2008. But it was not done by the police; it was done by privately hired divers, who were

hired by a Portuguese lawyer, who had gotten a tip from what he called "underworld" sources, quote-unquote.

This search also was not exhaustive. This is a massive reservoir. They said they searched the places that they thought were most likely to turn up a

body or other evidence. Also, there was zero visibility.

Right now, there are divers that are on standby but, to our knowledge thus far, none have actually gotten in the water. The search is focused on land.

One possible reason for that is because of drought.

In 2007, this reservoir was 70 percent at capacity. Now it is less than half of that capacity. So the result is that many of the areas they are

searching right now were actually underwater back in 2007, obviously, making it easier for them 16 years later, Eleni.

GIOKOS: All right, Scott McLean, thank you.

Let's get you up to speed on some other stories that are now on our radar right now.


GIOKOS (voice-over): The U.N. is asking for $2.6 billion to support the population in Sudan. A U.N. envoy tells reporters that it needs to help

some 18 million people with humanitarian aid. That's compared to 15 million people before fighting broke out between rival factions in April.

Voters in Greece will be heading to the polls for a repeat election. Prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis says it will probably be held on June 21st. He

and other main party leaders have rejected a mandate to form a coalition government following Sunday's inconclusive vote.

Police in Guyana say a student is suspected of setting the deadly school fire after her mobile phone was taken away. At least 19 children died in

that blaze, which tore through the South American school dormitory Sunday night.

Police say survivors saw fire and smoke in the bathroom area before it spread.

GIOKOS: Now an exclusive report. CNN has learned from multiple Defense officials that a senior U.S. general ordered his command to announce on

Twitter that an Al Qaeda leader had been targeted in an American drone strike but without confirming who was actually killed. CNN Pentagon

correspondent Oren Liebermann has the story for us.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The drone strike on May 3rd in northwest Syria targeted a senior Al Qaeda leader according the U.S.

Central Command, which governs military operations in the Middle East and in that region.

CENTCOM, as it's known, promised more information with operational details of that strike had been confirmed. But now here we are nearly three weeks

later and CENTCOM hasn't put out any more information about who the target of the strike was or who was killed in the strike.

Officials tell us they knew it would take a few days to confirm who it was that was killed in the strike because at least partially, there are no U.S.

troops in northwest Syria who can quickly investigate. So it was a process that would take time.

But multiple defense officials tell CNN that, even so, even in the hours after the strike, General Eric Kurilla, the commander of U.S. Central

Command, ordered that tweet out, saying that the U.S. had targeted a senior Al Qaeda leader in northwest Syria.

Still, as we wait on more information from CENTCOM as to who was targeted or who was killed, CNN has spoken to the family of the casualty, who say he

was a 56-year-old farmer with 10 children and had no affiliation with Al Qaeda.

CENTCOM has opened up what's known as a CCAR, a Civilian Casualty Credibility Assessment Report, to see if, in their conclusion, a civilian

was killed in the strike.

Officials tell us there is still some belief that a member of Al Qaeda may have been killed here but that's certainly not as high as it was when the

strike was taken.

One official say there was high confidence they were targeting a member of Al Qaeda. Part of the issue here is the timing. The strike itself was on

May 3rd. Officials tell us on May 8th, The Washington Post went the CENTCOM and presented information suggesting that a civilian had been killed here.

And then that civilian assessment from the military happened a week after that, depending on the conclusion of that assessment that may lead to

what's known as a 15-6, a more formal investigation into the process behind the strike.

This whole process, as it played out is almost stunningly similar to the strike in Kabul that the U.S. took in the closing days of the Afghanistan

withdrawal, a strike that killed 10 civilians, including several children.

At first, the U.S. military and the Pentagon defended that strike --


LIEBERMANN: -- saying it had killed a member of ISIS-K who posed an imminent threat.

But after several media outlets, including CNN found issues with that narrative and spoke to family members of the casualty there, the U.S. was

forced to walk that back and acknowledge that it was civilians that were killed there.

In the wake of that strike, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a review of civilian harm protocols in the process there and there were more

processes that were put in place.

Brigadier General Pat Ryder, the Pentagon spokesman was asked today if he felt those were -- processes were still followed and he said the Secretary

has confidence that they very much are.

The question now, where does the assessment from CENTCOM lead and will there be calls for accountability if it does in fact turn out from

CENTCOM's own look that it was a civilian that was killed in this May 3rd strike? -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, at the Pentagon.


GIOKOS: Combining old and new on the battlefield, Ukrainian forces using unconventional tactics as they count down to a long awaited


Forget the streaming services, the debt limit drama playing out in Washington is a real nail-biter. We will look at the global implications

just ahead.




GIOKOS (voice-over): Welcome back. I am Eleni Giokos, in for Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi. You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Here are your

headlines this hour.

Typhoon Mawar is lashing the U.S. territory of Guam, with powerful winds and rain right now, even though the eye of the typhoon did not directly hit

the Pacific island. It is the strongest storm to impact Guam in decades.

Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, is set to officially enter the U.S. presidential race today. He is considered a formidable opponent to the

party's front-runner, former president Donald Trump. DeSantis will announce his bid during a conversation on Twitter with Elon Musk.

The chief of private military Wagner Group is blaming Moscow for its inability to stop Monday's brazen assault on Russia's Belgorod region. He

admits Russian troops are prepared to defend their own territory against Ukrainians, who he says have put up a fierce fight, particularly in


GIOKOS: All right, with Russia seemingly in control of the embattled city of Bakhmut, the big question now is when Ukraine's widely expected

counteroffensive will come. For now, Ukrainian forces are finding success with unusual hit and run tactics against Russian targets in the eastern

part of the country.


GIOKOS: CNN's Nic Robertson got to see some of those tactics firsthand.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Everything about this attack is unconventional.

A 1950s anti-aircraft gun fired flat and the drone operator next to it guiding the shots, old and new, fused as one. The target, a Russian base a

mile away beneath two white towers, easy for the drone to see, becoming an easier shot for the gunner.

We learned how to fire this ancient cast iron gun from hidden positions, call sign Al says. They broadcast the video on our tablet and we can see

where we hit. It allows us to aim very fast and precisely.

ROBERTSON: It's real shoot and scoot stuff. They have been on the position less than five minutes. They are getting out before the Russians can get a

bearing on them and fire back.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Nearby, a smaller gun, more improvisation, more shoot and scoot. For much of Ukraine's long front lines, hit and run is how

troops probe for Russian weaknesses and an opening for the long- expected counteroffensive.

GEORGIY KUPARASHVILI, 3RD ASSAULT BRIGADE OFFICER: It's not like just, hey, we're going. No. It's got to be a specific time where all the situation is

good and we have advantage for it.

ROBERTSON (on-camera): Do you feel that's close?

KUPARASHVILI: Yes. Yes, definitely.

ROBERTSON: How close?

KUPARASHVILI: It's pretty close.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): It's what commanders have been saying for a while. Reality, right now it's cat-and-mouse, hiding, waiting, watching.

KUPARASHVILI: Russians understand that we will concentrate our forces. They try to hit us much so we, you know, not to gather this, not to accumulate

the forces. But on daily basis, we have all information, changes in the tactics, changes in the operations, changes in the situation.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The lessons of Ukraine's recent small gains around Bakhmut. Russia regroups fast, steps up shelling, rapidly reinforces with

troops from other front lines, meaning smaller attacks can create opportunity.

ROBERTSON: When the big counteroffensive comes, the Ukrainians will need to muster as much firepower as they can, even old equipment like this, to put

down the Russians before they can send their own troops in.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Only smartly used, sustained and overwhelming force will win. And even then there is no guarantee -- Nic Robertson, CNN,

Eastern Ukraine.


GIOKOS: The U.S. debt ceiling drama is now a global nail-biter. So far, no results in resolving the standoff. The White House says they are

approaching negotiations with congressional Republicans with urgency.

The government spending appears to be the rub. The Treasury Secretary says the deadline is one week from Thursday to get a deal to keep the U.S.

economy from crashing and, by extension, avoid a possible tsunami of global fallout.

It has been said, when the U.S. economy sneezes, the rest of the world catches a bad cold. So there's plenty of anxiety to go around and that is

affecting U.S. and European stock markets. You can see we are red across the board. We've got CNN's Arlette Saenz in Washington for us.

This self inflicted situation that we see, with Janet Yellen declaring what the deadline actually is. I think the world is watching on, possibly in

horror, thinking why is there no decision?

Why can they not get to the negotiating table and thrash this out?

Are we any closer to a potential deal?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Eleni, it does not seem that we are any closer to a potential deal, as the two sides still remain

incredibly far apart in how to reach a budget agreement and ultimately raise the debt ceiling.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said this morning he does believe the talks have been productive. This comes as both sides have suggested there are

still significant gaps remaining.

Now negotiators, McCarthy said, are expected to come together once again this morning. We are still waiting to hear a timeframe for that. But that

really comes after talks had stalled yesterday.

You had Republicans out there accusing Democrats in the White House of not being willing to cut back on spending. Also, there is an interesting

comment from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

He was asked by our colleague, Manu Raju, if he was willing to make concessions during this debate. He said the only concession he's making is

raising the debt ceiling. Those comments really irked some here at the White House, who had felt that the conversations had been productive.

But it really speaks to this frustration which has been bubbling up amongst White House officials over the course of the past few days, including from

President Biden.


SAENZ: Earlier in the week Biden said that, in order for an agreement to be bipartisan, that Republicans are also going to have to move on some of

their issues. Democrats feel like they have been negotiating in good faith. They have offered up some proposals that, in their view, amounts to


And they feel that McCarthy and Republicans have yet to do that as well. So all eyes will be on the coming hours and days, as that clock continues to

dwindle down toward that June 1st potential date for a default.

GIOKOS: Yes. Arlette Saenz, thank you so much.

Well, just ahead, an ambitious program to reintroduce cheetahs in India for the first time in more than 70 years. But it has gotten off to a rough


And stunning Saudi score, Ronaldo proves why he is worth the big check. We will be back right after this.




GIOKOS: Welcome back.

One of the four cubs born to a Namibian cheetah relocated to India as part of the reintroduction program died on Tuesday. Forest department officials

say the cub is believed to have died due to weakness. It was the fourth cheetah to die in nearly two months. CNN's Ivan Watson has the story for



IVAN WATSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A sight not seen in India for more than 70 years, a litter of cheetah cubs born nearly

two months ago to Siyaya.

She is one of eight Namibian cheetahs brought last year to India's Kuno National Park. Hunting and habitat loss led to the extinction of cheetahs

in India in 1952. But a plan decades in the making is returning these fast felines to India.

Last September three males and five females made the long journey. The arrival of the cheetahs coincided with the birthday of Indian Prime

Minister Narendra Modi who celebrated their release into a special quarantine zone.

NARENDRA MODI, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Today, the cheetah has returned to the Indian soil and I would also say that along

with this cheetahs, the nature-loving consciousness of India has also been awakened with full force.

WATSON (voice-over): In February, authorities shipped a second group of 12 additional cheetahs from South Africa to India.

Veterinary wildlife specialist and associate professor Adrian Tordiffe helped choose the best cats for the move.

ADRIAN TORDIFFE, VETERINARY WILDLIFE SPECIALIST: There are a few criteria that we were interested in. One, we wanted young animals, obviously, a

certain sex ratio of the animals that are going.

And then we also wanted to make sure, because they're going into areas where there's quite a high leopard density, we wanted animals that are

really quite wild and very used to being --


TORDIFFE: -- with other large carnivores -- lions, leopards and so on.

WATSON (voice-over): For wild animals like these, a journey of up to 20 hours can induce high levels of stress. And then successful acclimatization

is not guaranteed. In recent weeks, four of the cheetahs have passed away, including one of the cubs.

TORDIFFE: In terms of the numbers, this is definitely better than expected.

WATSON (voice-over): Some experts have criticized the project from the start.

RAVI CHELLAM, WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST: My problem is the science is inadequate. The preparations are half-baked. India just does not have the space.

How do we do?

Do right, go back to the drawing board, secure the habitats.

WATSON (voice-over): These big cats have a long history in India. They're mentioned in ancient Sanskrit texts and Indian royalty used them for

hunting for centuries.

The Indian government now plans to introduce 50 more of these big cats over the next five years. The dream behind this high stakes project for these

wild animals to once again run free in India -- Ivan Watson, CNN.




GIOKOS: I will be back at the top of the hour with more CONNECT THE WORLD, stay tuned.