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Three cubs born to Namibian cheetah at Kuno Park in MP

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Bhopal/New Delhi, Jan 23 (PTI) A Namibian cheetah has given birth to three cubs at the Kuno National Park (KNP) in Madhya Pradesh, weeks after three cubs were born to another feline.

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Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav shared the news on X on Tuesday, saying, "Kuno's new cubs! Namibian cheetah named Jwala has given birth to three cubs. This comes just weeks after Namibian cheetah Aasha gave birth to her cubs." He further said in the post, "Congratulations to all wildlife frontline warriors and wildlife lovers across the country. May Bharat's wildlife thrive." According to officials, these cubs were born to Jwala on January 20.

This is the second litter of Jwala, after a gap of 10 months.

Jwala (Namibian name Siyaya) had also given birth to four cubs in March last year. However, only one of them survived.

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On January 3, Yadav had shared the information about the birth of three cubs to the Namibian cheetah Aasha.

So, the number of cubs in the KNP has increased to seven now, with six of them born in this month alone.

This has been a mixed month for India's cheetah project as it saw the birth of six cubs and the death of a Namibian cheetah, Shaurya, at the KNP on January 16.

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Since March 2023, seven adult cheetahs, including Shaurya, have died in the park due to various reasons. This has taken the total fatality count of felines, including three cubs, to 10 at the KNP.

The seven adult cheetahs - three females and four males - who died at the park were Sasha, Uday, Daksha, Tejas, Suraj, Dhatri and Shaurya. While the first six fatalities occurred in a period of six months - from March to August last year, Shaurya died last week.

One of the four cubs born to translocated Namibian cheetah Jwala died on May 23, 2023, and two others two days later.

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So the total number of cheetahs at the KNP currently stands at 20 (six males, seven females and seven cubs).

Jwala and Aasha are among the cheetahs translocated to India from Namibia under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Project Cheetah, aimed at re-introducing the only large carnivore species that went extinct in independent India.

The first batch of eight cheetahs was introduced in India in September 2022.

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The second batch of 12 cheetahs was flown in from South Africa last February.

The much-vaunted cheetah conservation project, however, has drawn sharp criticism over the deaths of seven of the 20 adults imported from Namibia and South Africa.

According to officials, one of the biggest challenges faced in the first year of managing the cheetahs in India was the unexpected development of winter coats by some of the animals during the Indian summer and monsoon, in anticipation of the African winter (June to September).

The winter coat, combined with high humidity and temperatures, caused itching, prompting the animals to scratch their necks on tree trunks or the ground. This led to bruising and exposing the skin, where flies laid eggs, resulting in maggot infestations and, ultimately, bacterial infections and septicemia, leading to the deaths of three cheetahs, an official explained.

"The mortalities under Project Cheetah so far have been within the expected limits. As per Cheetah Action Plan, we anticipated approximately 50 per cent mortality. Right now, 14 imported cheetahs are surviving, besides one cub born on Indian soil," SP Yadav, additional director general of forests in the Union Environment Ministry, had said earlier. PTI ADU MAS GVS SZM NP

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