Modi govt under fire after 3 newborn cheetah cubs die

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Cheetah cubs in Indias Kuno Park.— @BYADAVBJP/TWITTER
Cheetah cubs in India’s Kuno Park.— @BYADAVBJP/TWITTER

Three out of four cheetah cubs, born to a healthy mother — brought to India from Africa last year— succumbed to Indian summer in Kuno National Park, Madhya Pradesh, in the past week, BBC reported, amid criticism that Modi government was ill-advised on ‘Project Cheetah’.

Forest officials attributed the deaths to soaring temperatures caused by a heatwave in the region.

These cubs held significant importance as they were the first to be born in India in over 70 years. Cheetahs, which were once abundant in India, went extinct in 1952 due to extensive hunting and habitat destruction.

The mother of the deceased cubs was one of the 20 cheetahs that India brought in from Namibia and South Africa as part of an ambitious and controversial initiative aimed at reintroducing the world’s fastest land animal to the South Asian nation.

On Tuesday, the first cheetah cub tragically passed away, leading veterinarians in the Madhya Pradesh state’s national park to closely monitor the mother and the remaining three cubs.

As temperatures soared to 47 degrees Celsius (116 degrees Fahrenheit) on Thursday, the cubs exhibited signs of weakness. Concerned authorities intervened to assist the felines.

In a statement on Thursday, forest officials revealed that the cubs were “weak, underweight, and highly dehydrated,” resulting in the death of two of them. The surviving cub is currently receiving critical care at a specialized facility.

Although officials did not specify the cause of death, it is believed that the scorching heatwave killed the newborn cubs. Experts note that both in the wild and in captivity, cheetah cubs have a low survival rate.

According to Jasbir Singh Chouhan, a prominent wildlife official in Madhya Pradesh, the deaths of the cheetah cubs can be attributed to multiple factors. 

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Chouhan stated that the cubs were only eight weeks old and already underweight. He identified high temperatures, dehydration, and prolonged, exposure to the sun as some of the contributing causes.

Providing an update, Chouhan mentioned that the fourth cheetah cub is currently in stable condition and receiving necessary treatment. 

He further noted that they are in contact with cheetah experts from Namibia and South Africa for guidance and assistance.

In March of this year, India celebrated the birth of four cheetah cubs, marking a significant milestone as part of the relocation project. 

The introduction of these majestic cats was met with great excitement and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his belief that they would serve as catalysts for the conservation of India’s overlooked grasslands.

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