Cheetah cubs born to big cat reintroduced to India from Africa die in heat
India’s recent effort to reintroduce the world’s fastest land animal, the cheetah, to the country was met with both hope and controversy. Last year India made the ambitious move of flying in 20 cheetahs from Namibia and South Africa, as it had been more than 70 years since cheetahs were last seen in the country. The plan seemed to be working when three cubs were recently born in Kuno National Park in central India. Unfortunately, this joy quickly turned to tragedy as the three cubs have since died due to a heat wave in the region.
The loss of the cubs is especially devastating for conservationists and those who have tirelessly worked to repopulate the cheetah in India. The heat wave has hit the region hard, with temperature reaching over 40 degrees Celsius in certain areas. For larger predators such as the cheetah, such high temperatures can lead to life threatening dehydration. With no other cheetahs living in the park, the mother was unable to provide her cubs with enough care needed to survive the intense heat.
Cheetah reintroduction programs are very difficult to undertake, and usually have low success rates with many cubs dying within their first few weeks of life. Other risks to reintroduced cheetahs include habitat fragmentation, disease, and conflicts with humans. This particular case highlights the importance of considering climate change when devising conservation plans. Cheetah populations in India had been decimated by hunting and habitat loss, and without proactive approaches to preserving them, the same may unfortunately happen again.
In order to ensure the cheetah’s survival, there must be ongoing efforts to protect the species from both humans and climate-related dangers. This includes mitigating human conflict by educating locals about the importance of wildlife conservation. It also involves the implementation of climate adaptation techniques at the local level. This could involve providing shade and water sources in protected areas, limiting the use of drought resistant crops, and improving natural habitats to increase the populations of their prey.
The passing of these cubs highlights both the dangers of climate change and our responsibility to protect endangered species. Though there is still much work to be done, we must remain hopeful that one day, the cheetah can once again be seen in India with its previous abundance and grace.