regular-article-logo Wednesday, 27 September 2023

South African female cheetah dies at Kuno National Park, third death in three months

Daksha was found fatally injured by a monitoring team at 10.45am; she died around noon despite treatment administered by veterinary doctors

G.S. Mudur New Delhi Published 10.05.23, 04:38 AM
A cheetah at the Kuno National Park.

A cheetah at the Kuno National Park. File picture

India’s cheetah introduction project lost a third member on Tuesday after a South African female died after being attacked by a male during courtship behaviour within their fenced enclosures at the Kuno National Park, Madhya Pradesh.

The female cheetah named Daksha, found fatally injured by a cheetah-monitoring team at 10.45am, died around noon despite treatment administered by veterinary doctors, the Union environment ministry and the state forest department said.


The wounds on the female cheetah seem to have been “caused by a violent interaction with (a) male during a courtship mating attempt”, the government departments said in a statement. In such a situation, the chances of intervention by the monitoring team is non-existent.

Wildlife scientists said Daksha’s death, while tragic, should be viewed as “natural mortality” because such fights are known to occur among cheetahs in the wild.

A Namibian cheetah had died on March 27 from chronic kidney disease and a South African cheetah had died on April 23 from a cause that has not been determined yet.

“Cheetahs killing other cheetahs account for about 8 per cent of cheetah mortality in the South African metapopulation,” said Vincent van der Merwe, manager of The Metapopulation Initiative, a conservation programme that maintains clusters of cheetahs across South Africa.

“Nature is brutal,” van der Merwe told The Telegraph. “It is not unusual for male cheetahs to exhibit aggressive behaviour towards each other, as well as towards females.”

Experts guiding the cheetah introduction project have said they do not believe that the three deaths would in any way jeopardise the cheetah introduction project, which is challenging and comes with potential risks of the deaths of some cheetahs.

The project that aims to establish clusters of wild cheetahs in several wildlife sanctuaries across India had brought eight cheetahs from Namibia in September 2022 and 12 more from South Africa in February this year. A Namibian female that mated in December delivered four cubs in March this year.

The successful mating in December by the Namibian cheetahs within fenced enclosures had raised expectations among wildlife experts that similar attempts with South African cheetahs would also work.

“It worked for the Namibian cheetahs. They met and bred. It did not work for the South African cheetahs,” an expert on cheetahs said. The project involves some “trial and error”, he said. “The authorities are learning…. The same thing could have happened in the open too.”

The environment ministry had on Monday said all the cheetahs appeared to be “perfectly healthy, are hunting for themselves, and displaying other natural behaviour”.

The second cheetah’s death remains a mystery.

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