Three out of four cheetahs born in India after 70 years die | Wildlife News

Their mother was among 20 cheetahs brought in from Africa as part of an ambitious plan to reintroduce the animal, which had become extinct in India.

Three of four cheetah cubs born to a big cat brought to India from Africa last year have died in Kuno National Park in the past week, forest officials said, as a heat wave in the region sent temperatures soaring.

The cubs were the first born in India in more than 70 years. Once widespread in India, cheetahs became extinct there in 1952 due to hunting and habitat loss.

Their mother was among 20 cheetahs that India brought back from Namibia and South Africa as part of an ambitious and hotly contested plan to reintroduce the world’s fastest land animal to the South Asian country.

South African cheetahs
Two cheetahs are seen in a quarantine section at a reserve near Bella Bella, South Africa, before being moved to India [File: Denis Farrell/AP]

The first cub died on Tuesday, prompting vets at the national park in Madhya Pradesh state to closely monitor the mother and her three remaining cubs.

The cubs appeared weak on Thursday afternoon – a day when temperatures soared to 47 degrees Celsius (116 degrees Fahrenheit) – and authorities stepped in to help the cats.

They were “weak, underweight and severely dehydrated” and two of them later died, forest officials said in a statement on Thursday.

The last surviving cub is being treated in an intensive care unit.

Authorities have not said what caused the deaths, but India’s scorching heat wave is believed to have weakened the cubs. The survival rate of baby cheetahs in the wild and in captivity is low, according to experts.

Indian cheetah
Namibian cheetah seen after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi released it into Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh state [File: India’s Press Information Bureau/Handout via Reuters]

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Jasbir Singh Chouhan, a senior wildlife officer in Madhya Pradesh, said the causes of the cubs’ deaths were numerous.

“They were eight weeks old and also underweight. High temperatures, dehydration and sun exposure are some of the causes, he said.

“The fourth cub is stable and receiving treatment,” he said, adding that they are in contact with cheetah experts in Namibia and South Africa.

In March this year, India announced the birth of four cubs to one of the eight cheetahs that were moved from Namibia.

The cats were introduced with much fanfare, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the cats would catalyze conservation efforts in India’s neglected grasslands.

But of the 20 adult cheetahs imported to India, three – two females and a male – have died.

Earlier this month, a female cheetah named Daksha died in Kuno National Park after being injured by one of the big cats.

Two more cheetahs, Sasha and Udai, died in February and April respectively due to illness.

While the government is confident that the cheetah relocation will be successful, many experts have expressed skepticism about the ambitious project to reintroduce the African animals to Indian forests.

Fewer than 7,000 adult cheetahs remain in the wild worldwide and now occupy less than nine percent of their original range.

Habitat loss due to growing human population and climate change is a huge threat.

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