Cheetah brought from Namibia dies of kidney ailment at Kuno National Park | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Cheetah brought from Namibia dies of kidney ailment at Kuno National Park

By, Bhopal
Mar 28, 2023 12:53 AM IST

Five-and-a-half-year-old Sasha, who was brought to India in the first batch of cheetahs from Namibia, died due to suspected renal failure on Monday, officials said.

Five-and-a-half-year-old Sasha, who was brought to India in the first batch of cheetahs from Namibia, died due to suspected renal failure on Monday, officials said.

The cheetah, Sasha, died at around 8am on Monday.
The cheetah, Sasha, died at around 8am on Monday.

Sasha contracted a renal infection, common among the animals, in the third week of January and was undergoing treatment at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh’s Sheopur, officials of the state forest department said.

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“Sasha died at around 8am on Monday. At this point, renal failure is suspected,” said Susan Yannetti, spokesperson of Cheetah Conservation Fund, the Namibia-based wildlife NGO that is part of the project to relocate the big cats in India.

The Madhya Pradesh forest department, in a statement on Monday, said Sasha was suffering from a kidney ailment before her translocation. CCF convener Laurie Marker, however, refuted the claim.

According to the statement, officials first found out about her ill health on January 22, when she was visibly “lethargic”. “Sasha was inspected by three veterinarians, who found that Sasha needed treatment and she was brought to the quarantine enclosure on the same day,” the statement said.

Blood tests at Van Vihar National Park in Bhopal confirmed she had kidney infection, the statement said.

“For the past two months, Sasha was treated by all wildlife doctors posted in Kuno, Namibian expert Dr Ilai Walker and South Africian expert Dr Adrian Tordif. On February 18, veterinary expert Dr Laurie Marker came to Kuno with 12 cheetahs brought from South Africa and checked on her health. South African experts appreciated that despite such a serious illness, Sasha was relatively healthy due to proper care and treatment,” the statement said.

An official of the Cheetah Task Force told HT earlier this month that Sasha was diagnosed with the infection in February and was recovering in her quarantine.

While four cheetahs from the first batch of eight were released into the wild between March 11 and 25, Sasha and two others, Siyaya and Savannah, remained in their hunting enclosures after experts expressed concerns over their chances of survival in the wild. The four cheetahs who have been released in the wild are fine and Tablisi will be released soon, officials said.

An autopsy will be conducted to reveal the exact cause of Sasha’s death, Yannetti said. “This is what happens with cheetahs that is why we say they are delicate creatures. They are prone to renal disease,” she said.

The forest department said that Sasha was suffering from a kidney ailment even before her translocation.

“Wildlife Institute and Kuno National Park got her medical history from Namibia and found that the creatinine count in her last blood test done on August 15, 2022, was more than 400 which showed she was suffering from renal infection before coming to India,” the statement read.

Without giving further detail, Marker said, “It is not true that Sasha was unwell before her arrival in India.”

Earlier on March 8, HT reported that Indian officials had expressed concerns over the adaptability skills of the Sasha, Siyaya and Savannah, before they were translocated, and sought replacements. The government in Namibia, however, refused to replace the cheetahs.

Namibian forest ministry public relation officer Romeo Muyunda said that they have received the news of Sasha’s death and were looking into it. “I need to consult on this, I believe the cheetahs were tested for possible illnesses. If an illness was missed, it was not deliberate, our commitment was to donate healthy cheetahs. We believe the rest are reportedly doing very well, “ he added.

Sasha was found on a farm near the east-central Namibian town of Gobabis by some farm workers in 2017, CCF said.

“In January 2018, CCF staff learned about Sasha and moved her to the CCF Centre lands, which include a large, integrated, livestock model farm and wildlife reserve,” said a CCF official.

Prime Minister Modi on September 17 last year released the eight cheetahs from Namibia, in the first leg of the translocation project after a decades-long effort to restore a species that was declared extinct in 1952, owing to poaching and shrinking grasslands.

Later, 12 more were brought from South Africa on February 18. These cheetahs are currently in quarantine, and will be released in soft predator-free Bomas soon, said forest department officials said.

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