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Cheetah Cubs Born in Boma , Do They Have Conservation Value ?

When Aasha gave birth to three cubs in one of the enclosures  of  Kuno national park - there was good news and bad news. The good news is that this is the second litter of cheetah on Indian soil after Siyaya, another Namibia cheetah, gave birth to four cubs in March 2023 and that the animal seems to have acclimatized further in India conditions. Birth in captivity will also enhance their chances of survival. The three newborns  from Aasha have also increased the number of cheetahs in India.  The bad news is that like Siyaya's cubs, they too are born within the confines of a boma and would not get the environmental conditions required to survive in the wild. They would also be reared up by Aasha in the enclosure -safe from predators like leopards. But what does this mean? Kuno Awaits Cheetah Birth in Open Forest Cheetahs were translocated to India with a purpose. The Cheetah action plan envisages saving, conserving and developing India's grasslands .The reason for choosing cheet

Back to Back Cheetah Deaths in Kuno: South African Expert Unhappy Over Communication Gap

Cheetahs in Kuno

 Close on the heels of the death of Tejas, the male cheetah, another cheetah died in Kuno national park on Friday  ( July 14) .  This is the first cheetah casualty in the open forest of Kuno where Suraj , the sub- adult who died , was released on June 25. Suraj’s body carried injury marks, perhaps, the result of a fight with some carnivore. The male cheetah died two days after Tejas whose body was found in his enclosure. Besides, 3 cheetah cubs born in captivity had also died taking the cheetah  death toll to 8. Back to back cheetah deaths seem to have ratteled the officials in Delhi leading to lack of communication  between them and  their counterparts in South African resulting into non-participation of an important  South African member of Cheetah Project Steering Committee in an important meeting on July 14.      

 First Death In Open Forest

Cheetah in Kuno

Though high mortality of cheetahs are expected in the project, eight deaths in a span of about 4 months have become a cause of concern for those involved in the cheetah introduction programme termed as “ill -conceived, unscientific and un unplanned” by  experts from  India and abroad when the cheetah introduction  was announced . Except Suraj,  all other cheetahs died in  enclosures or bomas where  they are  least expected to die. 

Also read: Stressed & Unhappy After Long Captivity , Kuno Cheetahs Need To Be Released In The Wild

 "They are safe inside the enclosures where there is no threat of  predators like  leopards or wolves”, a senior official of the ministry of forest environment and climate change (MoEFC&C)  said adding, “     besides, food is also guaranteed inside the enclosures.”  Suraj’s death  in the open forest might have been caused after fighting with a leopard, he said. “There were injury marks on his back and around neck”, he said.  The cat was found dead around 9 am by the monitoring team of Kuno. After Suraj’s death the number of free ranging cheetahs in Kuno becomes 11. Other four felines and a cub are currently in the enclosures.  As this cub is being bred in captivity , it will not be a part of the project in future. In all  there were 20 cheetahs- 8  were translocated from Namibia in September last year while 12 were airlifted from South Africa in February this year.

 "Tejas Died Slowly, Septicaemic Shock"

cheetah in kuno

Meanwhile ,the post mortem report of Tejas, the cheetah  who died in an enclosure two days ago, revealed that  the cat was “  weak and ailing ” and may have died because of  a “traumatic shock” triggered by injuries from a violent interaction with a female cheetah also present in the same enclosure. The report said “There was accumulation of chicken fat (  medical terminology for a variety of fat)  and coagulated blood was also found in the aorta and auricle of his heart. His kidney appeared pulpy and emphysema and white coloured nodules were found in spleen,” the post mortem report revealed according to the officials.  Member of Cheetah Project Steering Committee Professor Adrian Tordiffe, who is also   director - Veterinary Academic Hospital in Pretoria university  thinks otherwise. He claimed , “ the animal died slowly and the cause of death was most likely septicaemic shock”. Decoding the  post mortem report , the eminent veterinarian said, “ A chicken fat clot in the heart, better described as an agonal clot, simply means that the animal died slowly, as would be the case if it was in a state of severe shock. It does not mean that there was anything wrong with its heart.” The kidneys look pretty normal .The white lumps in the spleen are myelolipomas, often seen in cheetahs. They are benign and do not cause any problems, he told thewildlifeindia.com .  “The skin around the neck area appeared to be rotten or infected even though the wounds were not very deep. There were a large number of fly larvae visible on the neck”, he pointed out. 

Also readAdventures of Asha, Oban Put Cheetah Task Force in a Fix 

“Since the carcass was placed in a freezer soon after death (according to the authorities at Kuno), these fly larvae must have been present on the animal prior to death. That would mean that there must have been open wounds on the neck area and a discharge which would attract the flies”.  “Overall it seems to me that the neck wounds on this cheetah were present for some time (perhaps a few days) prior to his death and that the cause of death was most likely septicaemic shock”, he concluded. He also rued ,” I also need to add that I was notified of a Cheetah Project Steering Committee meeting that would take place today in New Delhi. I asked to attend the meeting virtually, but got no response to my request.” Tejas was so weak that he weighed almost 20 kgs less than the cats of his age. Weighing 43 kgs at the time of autopsy, it was found that his lungs, heart, spleen, and kidney were not normal during the autopsy on Wednesday, (July 12). 

 Also readA Tiger Procession in Ranthambhore 

“This cheetah was destined to die and would have not been able to survive in the wild. Even inside the enclosure, the cheetah was hardly eating. Though the cat had made a kill, his consumption was not known”, revealed an official of the MoEFC&C.  Tejas’ death has brought back the issue of long captivity of the animals .  It has already been over a year long captivity for the south African cheetahs who are yet to be released in the wild. “They are not happy, under stress and turning weak”, experts said. They need to be released immediately, they said. But where ? All in Kuno or some other forest of India? 

 Is Cheetah Action Plan derailed ? 

cheetah action plan

The cheetah action plan envisaged  more sites ( jungles)  for the cheetah translocation, atleast  " three to five”, said YV Jhala, former dean  of Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India's (WII) .   His tenure in the cheetah project was cut short . After Jhala’s departure, the project doesn’t have a genuine  cheetah expert.  Talking to the news agency PTI, Jhala said, “ Cheetah deaths in Kuno are not that important for the success of the project. What is urgently required is the preparation of other sites for the release of the cheetahs.” A minimum of three-to five sites like Kuno are required for the cheetah reintroduction project to succeed in India, with a proper budget allocation by the central government, Jhala said. The plan mentioned jungles like Gandhi Sagar and Nauradehi sanctuaries in Madhya Pradesh   and Mukundara Hills national park in Rajasthan.

Also read:More Questions  On Cheetah Project in Kuno 

  But the idea of sending cheetahs to Mukundara seems to have been dropped after “ political differences”  with the state’s government while Gandhi Sagar and Nauradehi are yet to be prepared. Fencing work started in Gandhi Sagar in Neemuch district of MP but the villagers started  protesting.    Besides, the monsoon also hampered the work. Meanwhile the  Kuno river  in the  Kuno national park and other water bodies have turned this  southern tropical dry deciduous forest a hostile place for the  ground staff to monitor the cheetahs. International attention and media reports after each cheetah death have also exerted pressure not only on the   ground staff in Kuno.

By Deshdeep Saxena 
Representative images from Kuno.

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Cheetah Cubs Born in Boma , Do They Have Conservation Value ?

When Aasha gave birth to three cubs in one of the enclosures  of  Kuno national park - there was good news and bad news. The good news is that this is the second litter of cheetah on Indian soil after Siyaya, another Namibia cheetah, gave birth to four cubs in March 2023 and that the animal seems to have acclimatized further in India conditions. Birth in captivity will also enhance their chances of survival. The three newborns  from Aasha have also increased the number of cheetahs in India.  The bad news is that like Siyaya's cubs, they too are born within the confines of a boma and would not get the environmental conditions required to survive in the wild. They would also be reared up by Aasha in the enclosure -safe from predators like leopards. But what does this mean? Kuno Awaits Cheetah Birth in Open Forest Cheetahs were translocated to India with a purpose. The Cheetah action plan envisages saving, conserving and developing India's grasslands .The reason for choosing cheet