Another cheetah died at the National Kuno Park in Madhya Pradesh, making it the eighth such casualty in less than four months, reported NDTV. Officials said they are yet to ascertain the cause of the death of the male cheetah, Suraj.
Suraj was among the 20 cheetahs that that had been translocated from South Africa and Namibia last year.
Sasha was the first cheetah to die due to a kidney ailment on March 27. The second feline, Uday, died due to cardio-pulmonary failure on April 24. The third one, Daksha, died during a mating attempt on May 9. Three cubs born in India also died in May.
A seventh cheetah, Tejas, died on Tuesday. His autopsy showed that the feline was unable to recover from a “traumatic shock” after a violent fight with a female cheetah.
In the wake of the deaths, wildlife experts have questioned the way the felines have been handled, reported PTI.
Former dean of the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India, YV Jhala, told PTI that deaths were expected in the reintroduction programme but it was surprising that mortalities happened in the enclosures.
“Cheetahs were expected to die after release from the safe enclosure, not within it.” Jhala said.
On Tejas’ death, he had said: “A female cheetah attacking and killing a male is something which has never been reported anywhere across the cheetah’s range.”
On the death of the cubs, Jhala said that if the cubs were malnourished, they should have been given supplements to make them healthy.
Another dean who did not want to be named told the news agency that experienced veterinarians should be involved in the team managing the felines.
Experts have also said India does not have the habitat or prey species for African cheetahs and that the project may not fulfil its aim of grassland conservation.
The cheetahs were reintroduced to India seven decades after the species was declared extinct in the country. The cheetah was officially declared extinct by the Indian government in 1952. The wild cats were last recorded in the country in 1948, when three cheetahs were shot in the Sal forests in Chhattisgarh’s Koriya District.
In February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that India has a chance to restore an element of biodiversity that had been lost long ago by reintroducing the felines.
In June, Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav had said that the government takes full responsibility for the deaths of the cheetahs.