On Wednesday, wildlife officials announced the birth of three cubs to Aasha, a Namibian cheetah residing at Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh’s Sheopur district.
Aseem Shrivastava, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), reported that Aasha, currently in a spacious enclosure, is under constant monitoring by a dedicated team. He emphasized her wild nature and revealed that suspicions about her pregnancy were confirmed through photographic evidence.
Aasha arrived at Kuno on September 17, 2022, in a crate labeled “Aasha – The Hope.” Described as a confident and resilient animal, she covered a distance of over 200 km after being released into the wild in March of the previous year.
The project initially suspected Aasha’s pregnancy following her interaction with a male cheetah named Pawan on February 1. Although the two were together until March 11, no cubs were born at that time. The cheetah had also caused a bit of trouble in the past, wandering into Shivpuri district and leading to an unfortunate confrontation with local villagers who mistook the tracking team for dacoits.
Union Minister for Environment, Forest, and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav shared the news on social media, expressing his excitement about the birth of three cubs at Kuno National Park. He praised it as a success for Project Cheetah, an initiative envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to restore ecological balance.
Shrivastava highlighted the significance of the cubs’ birth, considering it as a positive sign that the cheetahs are adapting to the Indian climate and making Kuno their habitat. He expressed confidence in their ability to survive in the wild.
This news is particularly welcome for wildlife officials grappling with challenges, including a series of deaths at Kuno National Park. Last year, Namibian cheetah Jwala gave birth to four cubs, but three succumbed to extreme weather conditions in May. A surviving ten-month-old cub, rejected by its mother, is currently being cared for by Kuno park officials.
While Aasha cares for her cubs, there is optimism among officials. However, concerns were raised about the cubs being born in a large enclosure rather than in the wild, limiting exposure to natural pressures. Despite this, some view the controlled environment as beneficial for enhancing survival, protecting the cubs from potential predators.
It has been over a year since the relocation of 20 cheetahs from Namibia and South Africa to Kuno National Park, with six casualties reported since March 2023.