Grief And Joy Regarding Cheetahs From Namibia And South Africa In India

17 May 2023

The cheetah reintroduction programme in India is facing setbacks. A female died from fatal injuries sustained during mating. This means that three of the 20 cheetahs from South Africa and Namibia that had been brought to India's Kuno National Park have now died. In between, however, there was reason to rejoice when four cubs were born.

Park officials and experts gave two males access to the female's enclosure in early May, according to a report by the BBC. Three days later, the female was found in the morning with injuries, apparently from a mating, to which she succumbed in the afternoon. According to an official statement, it is normal for male cheetahs to become 'violent' towards the female during mating. It is not possible for the monitoring crew to intervene.

All three animals come from South Africa. In mid-February, seven female and five male cheetahs were brought from South Africa to Kuno National Park in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.


Diseases of two cheetahs pose a mystery

At the end of April, just a few days before the female, one of the males died (see BBC report). It had been released from the quarantine enclosure into the larger acclimatisation enclosure shortly before. One morning the cheetah walked through the enclosure in an uncoordinated manner and was unable to lift its head. It was sedated and treated, but died in the afternoon, apparently of heart and lung failure. Experts speculated that the animal had suffered from severe stress.

" Failure of the heart and lungs is common in the terminal stages of many conditions and does not provide much information about the underlying cause of the problem," explained the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), which is also involved in the reintroduction programme on the ground, when asked by News. "It also does not explain the initial neuromuscular symptoms." So they are waiting for further examination results.

Regarding the eight cheetahs that were translocated from Namibia to India last September (see our report), there was a loss at the end of March (see CCF's 'eulogy'). One of the three females died of chronic kidney failure.


Cheetah female Sasha Kuno National Park India Cheetah Conservation Fund CCF Namibia
The female cheetah from Namibia that was brought to Kuno National Park in India in September 2022 and died in late March 2023. 
Photo (November 2022): Cheetah Conservation Fund


In this case, too, the experts are still puzzled. The CCF explained: "The female's kidney values were normal before she was transferred to India. The underlying causes of renal disease in felids are unknown, but generally the condition progresses slowly, taking several months or even years before clinical symptoms manifest. This is why we believe there is more to it in her case."


Joy over four cheetah cubs

Practically at the same time, there was cause for joy: one of the other two females from Namibia gave birth to four cubs. The gestation period for cheetahs lasts about 95 days. So the mating must have taken place in the acclimatisation enclosure. According to CCF, the father is one of the four animals already roaming freely in Kuno National Park. Collar transmitters allow the movements to be observed.

The female is still in the spacious enclosure, but hunts her prey and cares for her young. The sex of the cubs is not yet known. " We will know more when they are around eight weeks of age," says the CCF, "which is the next time we expect Project Cheetah staff to visit their den."


Cheetah cub Cheetah Siyaya Kuno National Park India Cheetah Conservation Fund CCF Namibia
Success for the cheetah reintroduction programme in India: The four cubs of a cheetah pair from Namibia in Kuno National Park. 
Photo (29 March 2023): Cheetah Conservation Fund


The reintroduction of the cheetah, which India had declared extinct in 1952, enjoys a lot of attention in the country. The government sees it as a milestone in its nature conservation efforts. The programme is also making headlines worldwide. It is the first time that a large carnivore has been translocated from one continent to another to be released back into the wild.


Largest cheetah population in the world

Namibia, home to the largest population of cheetahs in the world with about 1,500 individuals, offered itself as a donor country. Namibia holidaymakers can experience the world's fastest land animal in almost all areas of the country. Not only in Etosha National Park in the north. But also in the Kalahari in the east and at the Fish River Canyon in the south of the country. The cheetah can even be found in the west at the edge of the Namib Desert.

You can learn more about the spotted slender cat and its protection at the CCF Research and Training Centre northeast of Otjiwarongo.

Sven-Eric Stender

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