First four cubs born to cheetahs in India reintroduction project

Mother Siya likely mated with either Elton or Freddie, one of the twin cheetahs she was earlier spotted with

Arpan Rai
Wednesday 29 March 2023 12:56 BST
The cheetah’s four cubs were spotted only on Wednesday morning by Namibian and India veterinarian expert inside Kuno national park
The cheetah’s four cubs were spotted only on Wednesday morning by Namibian and India veterinarian expert inside Kuno national park (Department of Forest/ Madhya Pradesh)

A cheetah in India has given birth to four cubs.

The births may not have been newsworthy under ordinary circumstances, but for the fact that the world’s fastest land animal had remained extinct in the country for 70 years.

India’s government had kickstarted an ambitious experiment last year at the Kuno national park in the central Indian Madhya Pradesh state, where eight cheetahs had initially been flown in from Africa in a bid to revive the wild cat’s chances of survival in the south Asian country.

One of the cheetahs borrowed from Namibia, named Siya, gave birth to the four cubs that were likely born three-four days ago, Kuno national park’s divisional forest officer Prakash Verma told The Independent on Wednesday over a phone call.

This is the first such cub birth on Indian soil in more than seven decades as the country’s cheetah population had gone extinct in 1952.

A video of the four cheetah cubs has been shared by Madhya Pradesh’s forest department. The four cubs are seen nestling cosily together in a dry grass shrub against each other as one of them yawns.

The feline’s cubs were spotted only on Wednesday morning by Namibian veterinarian expert Eli Walker and Indian veterinarian Dr Jitendra Jatav inside the boma structure – a funnel-like protected enclosure – where the cheetah was resting for the past few days, leaving forest officials delighted.

Siya likely mated with one of the twin cheetah brothers Elton and Freddie, who she was spotted with three months back, Mr Verma said. Both twins were released into the wild in early March after living inside the protected enclosure.

Forest officials and range officers inside the Kuno national park will now ensure there is adequate protection around the mother of these cubs.

“Now we will let nature and the mother cheetah do her job to rear the cubs and ensure there is enough protection for Siya to bring up her cubs,” Mr Verma said.

He said while there are no predators lurking around the boma housing Siya, it will be crucial to keep an eye out to protect the newest members of the Kuno national park.

“So far, we are confident that there is plenty of prey for cheetahs to kill in their range and we won’t have to send any food,” Mr Verma said.

Kuno is now home to 23 cheetahs, including the four cubs.

The news of the births comes just a day after India lost one of the eight cheetahs it borrowed from Namibia under the ambitious translocation project to kidney disease.

Sasha, a five-and-a-half year old female cheetah, succumbed to a kidney infection on Monday and was found dead in her cubicle in Kuno, officials said in a statement.

The cheetah was found to be lethargic on 22 January by the park’s monitoring team, following which the African cheetah’s health was inspected by three veterinarians who found out that she needed treatment.

Officials said her treatment history after a blood test revealed very high creatinine levels, which caused her kidney ailment.

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