Three baby cheetahs die in India amid sweltering heat wave

Three baby cheetahs born to a big cat brought to India from Africa last year died last week in Kuno National Park in central India


FILE – Two cheetahs are seen inside a quarantine section before being transferred to India at a reserve near Bella Bella, South Africa, Sunday September 4, 2022. Three baby cheetahs, born to a big cat brought to India from Africa last year, who died in May 2023. Their mother was among 20 people India airlifted from Namibia and South Africa as part of a an ambitious and highly contested plan to reintroduce them to the Indian prairies. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell, File)

The Associated Press

NEW DELHI — Three baby cheetahs born to a big cat brought to India from Africa last year died in Kuno National Park in central India last week, forestry officials said, as a heat wave in the region was causing temperatures to rise.

The cubs were the first to be born in India for over seven decades. Once widespread in India, cheetahs became extinct in 1952 due to hunting and habitat loss. Their mother was among 20 cheetahs that India brought in from Namibia and South Africa as part of an ambitious and much-contested plan to reintroduce the world’s fastest land animal to the country. South Asia.

The first cub died on Tuesday, prompting veterinarians at the Madhya Pradesh state national park to closely monitor the mother and her three remaining cubs. The cubs appeared weak on Thursday afternoon – a day when temperatures reached 47 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) – and authorities stepped in to help the cats.

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

The last surviving cub is being cared for in an intensive care facility.

Officials have not said what caused the deaths, but a scorching heat wave in India is believed to have weakened the cubs. The survival rate of baby cheetahs both in the wild and in captivity is low, experts say.

The cats were introduced with great fanfare and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had 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 one male – died.

There are fewer than 7,000 adult cheetahs left in the wild worldwide and they now inhabit less than 9% of their original range. Habitat shrinkage, due to increasing human population and climate change, is a huge threat.


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