Namibian cheetah gives birth to three cubs at Indian national park

India imported cheetahs in 2022 to replace native population that became extinct in 1948

Two of the three cubs born to Namibian cheetah Aasha on December 26 at India's Kuno National Park. Photo: Bhupender Yadav / X
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A cheetah brought to India to reintroduce the species has given birth to three healthy cubs, officials said.

The mother, Aasha, is one of five female and three male cheetahs relocated from Namibia to the Kuno National Park in central Madhya Pradesh state in September 2022.

Twelve more cheetahs were brought to the park from South Africa early last year.

Aasha gave birth on December 26, Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav announced in social media post accompanied by a video and photo of the cubs.

“Purrs in the wild! Thrilled to share that Kuno National Park has welcomed three new members. The cubs have been born to Namibian Cheetah Aasha,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Wednesday.

Park officials said the cubs were healthy and that news of their birth was released only after they had opened their eyes.

The latest births raised India's cheetah population to 18. Six of the adult cheetahs died last year from various causes, while three out of a litter of four cubs born last year died from dehydration and weakness.

The new litter will give a boost to a pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who released the first arrivals to the park in 2022.

Indian prime minister releases Namibian cheetahs into wildlife reserve

Indian prime minister releases Namibian cheetahs into wildlife reserve

“This is a roaring success for the 'project cheetah', envisioned by PM Modi to restore ecological balance,” Mr Yadav said. “My big congratulations to all the experts involved in the project, the Kuno wildlife officials, and wildlife enthusiasts across India.”

Aseem Shrivastava, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) in Madhya Pradesh, said the birth of the cubs is an “important indicator that the cheetahs are acclimatising to the Indian climate and have made Kuno their habitat”.

A female cheetah named Daksha was among those which died last year. She was fatally injured in a fight after being put in an enclosure with two males in a breeding attempt.

The deaths prompted criticism from wildlife and environmental experts who said cheetahs were vulnerable species and that their reintroduction to India was a vanity project aimed only at increasing tourist revenue.

The government defended the move, saying their reintroduction in the country was “undoing an ecological wrong”.

India is thought to have had more than 10,000 cheetahs during the reign of the 16th-century Mughal emperor Akbar, with about 10 per cent as hunting stock for the court.

But their population collapsed by the 1900s because of hunting by British colonisers and local rulers.

The last three cheetahs were hunted in 1948 by Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo, a king in central India’s Koriya region.

In 1952, the Indian government declared the big cats extinct.

India will receive about 100 cheetahs from South Africa over the next decade, under a deal signed by the two countries.

Updated: January 04, 2024, 1:08 PM