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Environment

Three More Cheetah Cubs Born on Indian Soil

Three cubs have been born to Aasha, a cheetah brought from Namibia in September 2022.

New Delhi: In a social media post on January 3, Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav announced the birth of three more African cheetah cubs on Indian soil.

This is the second litter of cheetah cubs to be born in the country since the ambitious Project Cheetah kicked off in September 2022. The project aims to introduce the African cheetahs to select grassland habitats in India.

India welcomed four cheetah cubs in late March in 2023. Three of them, however, died.

Three cheetah cubs arrive

In a tweet on X (formerly Twitter), the minister announced the birth of three more African cheetah cubs in Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park, the current location for Project Cheetah.

The three cubs were born to the cheetah named Aasha, one of the African cheetahs brought in from Namibia on September 17, 2022.

The cheetah was released into the wild in Kuno on March 11, 2023. She was then recaptured around July 20 and taken to an enclosure like all other cheetahs when authorities were concerned about their health, after several of them died due to “traumatic shock”, as per official records.

Yadav was “thrilled to share that Kuno National Park has welcomed three new members,” he said in his post on January 3.

“This is a roaring success for Project Cheetah, envisioned by PM Shri @narendramodi ji to restore ecological balance,” he added.

The post, however, does not mention when the cubs were born, though the video shows that all three cubs have opened their eyes.

As per the Cheetah Conservation Fund, whose director Laurie Marker was involved in translocating some of the cheetahs to India, cheetah cubs usually weigh 8.5 to 15 ounces (around 240 grams to 425 grams) at birth “and are blind and helpless”. As per one estimate, cubs open their eyes between four to 11 days after birth.

Second litter in India

This is the second litter of African cheetah cubs to be born in the country since the ambitious Project Cheetah was launched, with the arrival of eight cheetahs from Namibia.

In late March this year, cheetah Jwala (earlier called Siyaya) – also brought from Namibia, just like Aasha – gave birth to four cubs, more than 70 years after cheetahs, the world’s fastest land mammal, were declared officially extinct in the country.

However, three of the four cubs born to Jwala died.

One died on May 23, 2023, as it was “weak” and the runt of the litter, the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department had said in a press note. The press note had also claimed that the survival rate of cheetah cubs in Africa is very low and as per experts and available literature, their survival rate in open forests is only 10%. Under natural circumstances, only one in 10 cheetah cubs attain adulthood, the note said.

Two days later, on May 25, two more cubs died due to dehydration, per forest authorities. Authorities told the press that the two cubs’ death could have been caused by extreme heat (the temperature in Kuno was 46-47°C then) and the dry summer wind, which worsened their health.

Ashwini Kumar Choubey, minister of state for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, told the Rajya Sabha in August last year that the cubs died due to “heat stress”.