As India Works to Protect Wild Cats, Kidney Failure Emerges as Cause of Death in Captive Breeding Programs

India is home to 15 species of wild cats, including the only Asiatic Lions, most of the world’s tigers and many of the planet’s leopards. As has been reported here, India will take strong measures for feline conservation, including moving villages.

close up photo of a brown caracal
Caracal, with their distinctive ears, are among the 15 wild cat species of India They are not threatened at the moment. Photo by Jiří Mikoláš on

But while there has been progress on some fronts, the Delhi Zoo recently acknowledged that kidney and organ failure has killed six Asiatic lions and tigers within three years. The zoo’s director is calling for a close study of the causes behind the deaths.

Four of the deaths are directly related to kidney failure. Hema and Aman were two lions brought from the Chhatbir Zoo in 2015, Aman died in May of last year due to apparent heart failure brought on by infections and various organ problems. Hema died earlier this year of multiple organ failure.

photo of a fishing cat on a rock
The fishing cat stays close to water as it is adept at catching fish , It is roughly the size of a domestic cat, Photo by Davor Eres on

A white tigress named Nirbhay, who was 6-years-old, died late in 2020 shortly after giving birth to two cubs. One died as it was being delivered by C-section, the other died about 19 days later. She died of multiple organ failure.

Finally, a 15-year-old tiger called Bittu or B-2 died in November, 2020. He died of kidney failure, but he was at the end of a normal tiger lifespan and “age-related issues” were also cited in the passing. He had been obtained from the Van Vihar National Park and Zoo.

The deaths highlight the challenges faced by zoo veterinarians and staff as they try to protect their charges, especially those of endangered species.

nature animal head portrait
Various forms of lynx are found around the world including Canada, Spain and most of Eurasia, India is home to a population, too Photo by Pixabay on

The zoo acknowledged that kidney disease is common among zoo confined felines. The director said the zoo will study ways to provide more exercise, better diet and “enrichment.” Enrichment, as cat owners know, includes toys, games, interaction and other mental stimulation. The zoo will also look into the genetic history of the animals involved .

India is a very important country in cat conservation as 15 wild species make the country, one of the most heavily populated on Earth, their home. It is also a country where national and local governments work with conservation groups to protect wildlife heritage.

India currently is home to Royal Bengal Tigers (slowly increasing in number), Asiatic Lions (back from the verge of extinction) and Asiatic Leopards. There are also Snow Leopards, Clouded Leopards and Leopard Cats, none of which are true leopards. They are referred to a leopards because they have spotted coats. Also on the list are Jungle Cats, Fishing Cats, Pallas’ Cat, Asian Desert Cats, Eurasian Lynx, Asian Golden Cats, Caracals, Rusty-Spotted Cats, and Marbled Cats. A few, including Caracal and the lynx, are not especially threatened. But all the others face threats of extinction.

photo of a pallas s cat
The exotic Pallas Cat, or manul, is specially adapted to India’s mountains. It has extremely thick fur. Photo by Radovan Zierik on

Published by ursusrising

long time writer and editor living in Los Angeles

Leave a Reply