A day after a five-year-old female Namibian cheetah, 'Sasha', died reportedly due to serious renal (kidney related) problems at the Kuno National Park (KNP) on Monday, questions are being raised by wildlife experts, including whether the big cat was suffering from renal infection before she was translocated to her new habitat in Madhya Pradesh or got infected later.
These questions were raised after the forest officials in KNP stated that blood samples tested in Namibia on August 15, 2022, revealed that Sasha had this disease before coming to India. The question arises that if Sasha was already suffering from renal infection, as the KNP's statement claimed, why was she included in the world's first cheetah translocation project and transported to India.
"When Sasha's treatment history was obtained from Namibia, it was found that in the last blood sample test done in Namibia on 15 August, 22, the creatinine level was found to be more than 400 which confirms that Sasha had this disease before coming to India," KNP said in a statement on its official Twitter handle.
Sasha's health history or blood samples report were needed after she was spotted lying lazily in her big enclosure on January 22, three months after she was released at KNP. The question arises again, whether the officials associated with the cheetah translocation project were made aware of her health history by Namibian authorities or not.
Officials claimed that since her health was found to be deteriorating at KNP (since January), veterinary doctors in coordination with their counterparts in Namibia and South Africa, were treating her. The officials also claimed that on February 18, a team of veterinary experts from South Africa, who arrived at the KNP along with 12 South African cheetahs, too had examined Sasha and reportedly expressed satisfaction with the medical measures being taken to keep her relatively healthy despite being afflicted with severe chronic renal ailment.
"Around one-and-a-half months back when her health had improved marginally, the officials in the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, who were monitoring Sasha's movements regularly, had high hopes that she will survive now," a source privy to the developments told IANS on condition of anonymity.
Madhya Pradesh based wildlife activist Ajay Dube wrote to the state government and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in September last year and had raised questions about the appointment of top officials at KNP. "Sasha's death has raised various questions about forest and wildlife officials who were associated with this entire cheetah translocation project. I had raised a question about some top officials appointed at KNP. Before the cheetahs were brought to India, several teams of forest officials including Madhya Pradesh forest minister Vijay Shah visited African countries for detailed study on cheetahs and the core of money was invested for this purpose, what kind of study did they do there," Dube asked.
Meanwhile, a political controversy over the death of Sasha erupted in Madhya Pradesh after the state Congress media head K. K. Mishra claimed that the female cheetah had undergone a major abdominal operation. "This is not just the dead body of a dumb female cheetah, this is the dead body of another shameless event of the BJP government," Mishra said, raising the question - "The female cheetah was already suffering from health problems (had undergone a major abdominal operation). On what basis was it selected to be brought to India? Scam with humans in the name of animals too."
Meanwhile, KNP said that the remaining 19 cheetahs are completely healthy and active and hunting normally at their new habitats. "The remaining seven cheetahs brought from Namibia, out of which three males and one female have been released in the open forest for free movement on September 17, 2022, are completely healthy and active and are hunting normally. All the 12 cheetahs brought from South Africa are currently completely healthy and active in the quarantine enclosures," KNP said in a statement.
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