How to kill four cheetahs barehanded!

Published: Wednesday 15 February 1995

ZAKIR Alexis, last of the four cheetah's brought from Great Britain five years ago, died due to gross negligence in mid-January in the Delhi Zoo. This brings to focus the dismal state of veterinary services in Indian zoos. Alexis' death followed soon after its mate, Charlie, died the same month.

Experts lament that grossly inadequate infrastructure and failure to provide suitable habitats is causing exotic animals to vanish from Indian zoos. Of the four cheetahs, one had died soon after the cubs arrived in 1990. The second perished last October during a train journey to Hyderabad. Investigations later revealed that basic norms of enroute care had been left by the wayside.

With this, hopes of breeding cheetahs in captivity and reintroducing them into the wild in India have given way to dark pessimism among dismayed experts.

Cheetahs in India had become extinct in 1940s. A study conducted by the Indian Veterinary Research Institute shows that since then 35 cheetahs have been brought to India. All of them died due to improper care and diseases in 6 different zoos of Hyderabad, Delhi, Kanpur, Calcutta, Trivandrum and Mysore. The former director of the Delhi Zoo, B M Arora, who had conducted the study comments on the fatal experiments: "The survival of imported cheetah has been very short due to impoverished husbandry practices."

Finally, wiser from this experience, S C Sharma, member-secretary of the Central Zoo Authority says, "Before we import more cheetahs in future, care will be taken to ensure proper infrastructure and creation of trained personnel."

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