…By Jack Sylva for TDPel Media.
A female cheetah brought to India as part of a plan to reintroduce the species was killed by its mate during mating on Tuesday, marking the third fatality in the scheme.
The cheetah, called Daksha, was one of 12 South African cheetahs transported to India’s Kuno National Park, along with eight others from Namibia.
India was once home to the Asiatic cheetah but the species was declared extinct there in 1952.
The reintroduction aims to bring in around 100 cheetahs over the next decade.
Critics have warned that the creatures may struggle to adapt to the Indian habitat due to competition from leopards.
Violent behaviour is normal during cheetah mating, the park said in a statement, and monitoring the animals is impossible in such situations.
The park noted that “the wounds on the female cheetah appear to have been caused by the male cheetah”.
Sasha, a male from Namibia, died of a kidney ailment in March, and a South African male, Uday, died last month after becoming unwell.
Cheetahs are one of the oldest big cat species, with ancestors dating back around 8.5 million years.
Today, only around 7,000 cheetahs remain, primarily in the African savannahs.
Analysis and Commentaries
The death of Daksha, a female cheetah brought to India as part of a plan to reintroduce the species, is a major setback for the high-profile project.
The cheetah breeding programme is the first intercontinental relocation of the big cats and aims to bring around 100 animals over the next decade.
However, concerns have been raised over the ability of the cheetahs to adapt to the Indian habitat due to competition from leopards, and the latest fatality will increase pressure on the project.
Critics have also argued that the relocation programme ignored “spatial ecology” and that Kuno National Park was much smaller than the spaces the big cats usually need to thrive.
The plight of the cheetah is a poignant reminder of the damage done to animal populations by human activity.
The species once roamed widely throughout Asia and Africa in great numbers, but their numbers have fallen dramatically.
The cheetah is now one of the oldest big cat species and there are estimated to be only around 7,000 remaining, primarily in African savannahs.
Reintroducing the species to India would be a major achievement, but the challenges of the programme are starkly apparent.
The survival of the remaining cheetah populations will require concerted conservation efforts, including the protection of habitat and the creation of breeding programmes to increase their numbers.