New Delhi: One of the four cheetah cubs born in Kuno died on Tuesday, May 23, the Madhya Pradesh forest department said. The cub was weak, and the runt of the litter of four that cheetah Jwala gave birth to in the last week of March this year, it said in a press note.
The cub is the fourth cheetah to die in Kuno since the big cats were translocated from Namibia and South Africa as part of the project to reintroduce the species in the subcontinent.
On the morning of May 23, the monitoring team observed cheetah Jwala resting at a spot with its four cubs. After a while the adult cheetah rose and walked on, but was only followed by three of her cubs. The fourth did not rise up to follow its mother and siblings.
The monitoring team spent some time observing the resting cheetah cub in detail. It continued to lie on the ground. The cub, on seeing the monitoring team, also tried to lift its head. The team immediately alerted the veterinary team. Though the vets gave medical attention to the cub, it died in some time, the press note stated.
A post-mortem was conducted on the cub and preliminary findings suggest that it died due to weakness, as per the press note.
Low survival rates
According to the authorities, from the beginning, this particular cub was the smallest, the least active and least healthy of the four cubs born to the cheetah. Weak cubs are not able to compete with their siblings for milk, and this decreases their chances of survival and cannot live for too long, the press release says. This needs to be seen in the context of the ‘survival of the fittest’ – the Darwinian theory of evolution that describes the process of natural selection – the press note said.
The press note claimed that the survival rate of cheetah cubs in Africa is very low. As per experts and available literature, their survival rate in open forests is only 10%, the note claimed. Under natural circumstances, only 1 in 10 cheetah cubs attain adulthood, it said. This is why when compared to other big cats, the number of cheetah cubs that are born is more, the note claimed.
The cub is the fourth cheetah and the first cub to die in Kuno National Park after Project Cheetah commenced. The last cheetah that died was a female named Daksha, which died due to an injury inflicted during mating on May 9. One cheetah died due to kidney failure and the other due to cardio-pulmonary because of loss of fitness.