Three cheetah cubs died in central India's Kuno National Park last week, forestry officials confirmed to the Associated Press (AP), as a result of a heat wave that raised temperatures to 47 degrees Celsius.
The first cub died on Tuesday, prompting veterinarians at the national park in the state of Madhya Pradesh to closely monitor the mother and her three remaining cubs. All the cats were "weak, underweight and severely dehydrated."
Despite monitoring by specialists, two of them later died, forestry officials said in a statement on Thursday. The lone survivor is being treated in an intensive care facility.
Authorities did not say what caused the deaths, but a sweltering heat wave in India in recent weeks is believed to have weakened the cubs. According to experts, the survival rate of the offspring of this species famous for its ability to run at high speeds is low both in the wild and in captivity.
Kuno National Park announced the birth of these four cheetah cubs last March. “We are delighted to share that four cubs were born to one of the cheetahs translocated to India on September 17, 2022,” the park celebrated in a statement.
The birth of the little ones was considered a milestone “in the history of wildlife conservation in India”, because they were the first to be born in India in more than seven decades.
Once widespread in India, cheetahs became extinct in 1952 from hunting and habitat loss. The mother of the dead cubs is among 20 cheetahs flown in from Namibia and South Africa by India in an ambitious and controversial plan to reintroduce the world's fastest land animal to the South Asian country.