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Days After Birth of Three Cubs, Kuno Loses One More Namibian Cheetah in Enclosure

India had airlifted a total of eight cheetahs from Namibia in a historic translocation conducted in September 2022 to revive the species in the country, followed by 12 more from South Africa in February. (PTI)

India had airlifted a total of eight cheetahs from Namibia in a historic translocation conducted in September 2022 to revive the species in the country, followed by 12 more from South Africa in February. (PTI)

The wild-born male cheetah Freddy, later renamed Shaurya, was air-lifted to India in September 2022 when it was 6.5 years old. It was released into the wild, but recaptured later along with other felines in July and put into a large enclosure

Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park has lost one more cheetah in the enclosure, just when it was bracing up to re-release all the adult cheetahs into the wild.

The seven-year-old male cat Freddy, later named Shaurya, was brought to India from Namibia in September 2022 in one of the biggest-ever translocations of African cheetahs in the country. A wild-born cheetah, it had quickly begun to hunt on its own when it was first released from the quarantine early last year.

According to the state wildlife department, the Namibian cheetah passed away in the afternoon, just hours after it was tranquilised by the forest team for observation.

“Around 11am, incoordination and staggering gait was observed by the tracking team following which the animal was tranquilised and weakness was found. Following this, the animal was revived, but complications arose post revival and the animal failed to respond to the CPR,” the statement read. The cause of the death is yet to be confirmed and the post mortem is underway, said officials.

Shaurya was re-captured from the wild last year along with all the other adult cheetahs after the winter-coat scare that was linked with the death of three cheetahs in July. The ‘winter coat’ — a thick layer of skin that African cats develop ahead of winter (in Africa) — was cited as a reason for the sudden death of cats during India’s humid monsoons.

All the 14 adult cheetahs were then put back into the larger enclosures (bomas) as a precautionary measure, and remained there for months. However, last December, the forest department began re-releasing the cats into the wild — with the first batch of four cheetahs — Agni-Vayu male coalition, female cheetah Veera and a feisty male cheetah Pawan.

“We had released three cheetahs in the wild again last December, and have plans of releasing more in the coming few weeks. The rest of them, including the four cubs, are doing fine, and will be released gradually,” said one of the senior officials. “Though they are within enclosures, they are hunting on their own.”

India had airlifted a total of eight cheetahs from Namibia in a historic translocation conducted in September 2022 to revive the species in the country, followed by 12 more from South Africa in February. However, a year-and-a-half after the project began, seven adult cheetahs and three cubs have died, taking the overall death toll to 10.

The latest incident comes just two weeks after the national park celebrated the birth of three cubs, born to the female Namibian cat Aasha. They join the one-year old lone cub — the first cheetah to be born in India in 70 years — who remains the only one to pull through out of the batch of four who perished during the peak of summer in 2023.

The Kuno National Park now has about 13 adult cheetahs and four cubs, including three new-borns.

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