Namibian cheetah Shaurya died due to septicemia, making it the fourth big cat to have died due to this condition, Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav informed the Rajya Sabha .
Shaurya died at the Kuno National Park (KNP) in Madhya Pradesh on January 16 marking the 10th such fatality since the reintroduction of African big cats in India in 2022.
Three cheetahs — a female named Tbilisi (from Namibia) and two South African males Tejas and Sooraj — had died due to septicemia last year.
“This condition arose from wounds beneath their dense winter coat on the back and neck regions, which became infested with maggots and subsequently led to septicemia,” the environment ministry had said in the annual report on Project Cheetah last year. It was not clear if Shaurya died the same way.
Yadav told the Upper House on Thursday that depending upon the availability of animals and the status of the introduced cheetahs, 12-14 animals are proposed to be brought from South Africa and Namibia or other African countries during the next five years.
He said that action has been initiated for the introduction of cheetahs in the Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.
Yadav informed the Upper House that seven of the 20 adult cheetahs brought from South Africa and Namibia and three of the 11 cubs born in India have died. Seven of the 11 cubs were born last month.
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.
India plans to import cheetahs that do not develop thicker winter coats, a senior official had told PTI earlier.
For the cheetahs already in Kuno, the official had said the plan is to administer prophylactic medicine before the arrival of monsoon to prevent infection.
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