India installs water sprinklers to cool imported cheetahs amid deadly heatwave

India installs water sprinklers to cool imported cheetahs amid deadly heatwave


Two dozen cheetahs in India’s Kuno National Park are cooling off under water sprinklers to beat the deadly heatwave in the country.

The cheetahs were brought from South Africa and Namibia in September 2022 under a plan to reintroduce the species to India and are now housed in soft enclosures in the protected Kuno forest of central Madhya Pradesh state.

As temperatures have soared to around 50C, park authorities have been forced to make cooling arrangements for the 25 big cats. They have laid a pipeline, around 13km long, inside the soft enclosures to sprinkle water on the cheetahs through the “torturous summer”, the Deccan Chronicle newspaper reported.

The water is pumped from nearby Kuno river, an anonymous forest official told the newspaper.

India experienced a spell of severe heatwaves in late May, with 37 cities recording temperatures above 45C. The unprecedented heatwaves were made 1.5C hotter by the climate crisis, a new scientific assessment has found.

The Kuno National Park, where the cheetahs and their cubs have been kept in vast but restricted enclosures, recorded a maximum temperature of 48C.

Park authorities have taken proactive steps to keep the cheetahs cool this summer after at least three of them succumbed to heat stress last year, causing a setback to the project.

A three-month cub also died due to weakness earlier this month, officials said.

The project to reintroduce the cheetah, which went extinct in India in 1952, has been controversial. Several wildlife experts had questioned the viability of the animals surviving in the country even before their arrival from Africa, on prime minister Narendra Modi’s birthday in 2022.

Scrutiny increased after several of the cheetahs died and many repeatedly strayed outside the national park, only to be tranquilised and brought back.

There are less than 7,000 adult cheetahs left in the wild globally and they now inhabit less than 9 per cent of their original range.




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