Cheetah forms part of the quartet of the big cats. These include the Lions, Tigers, and Leopards. Of course, the Jaguar, Puma, and others are considered as equivalents of the Leopards. So, the big cat population is dominated by these four cats.
I am sure everyone is aware that the Cheetah is one of the fastest land animals and the fastest of the cats. There is no terrestrial prey that the Cheetah can’t get hold of when doing sprints of 120 kmph. To give you an idea of how fast the Cheetah is, take a look at this comparison of the Cheetah and a Formula E car.
Saw how fast the Cheetah ran off the line? It was way ahead, and the Formula E car just about pulled it back. There is even a video explaining how they trained the Cheetah to race with the Formula E car. Those interested can search and check it out on YouTube.
But why are we discussing this?
Okay, so here’s the story – India happens to be the only country that has three of the big cats as of today. The Lions are found in Gir forest in Gujarat; the Tiger population is well spread out in the western, central, and eastern parts of India, and the leopards, much like the tigers, are also spread across India. Everyone would have heard of the Bengal Tigers, which are the subspecies of tigers found in India.
In fact, the tiger population until the 1950s used to overlap a bit with the Lion population in Gujarat. That is an unprecedented wild reality where two of the strongest and biggest cats were found in the same territory. Nobody studied the interaction back then, so not much could be said of what happened when they crossed paths. As many would know, Lions are social cats, whereas Tigers are solitary ones, so there could have been some nasty encounters. Anyway, as of 2021, they have different territories with the lion population more or less concentrated in the Gir Forest.
Image: Asiatic Cheetah Cubs at Dharwar, India in 1897
What many don’t know is that until the 1960s, India was also home to the Asiatic Cheetahs. That means all four big cats were found in the same habitat (geography would be a better term). That is unparalleled anywhere in the world. At the time of the Indian rulers and the subsequent Mughal era, the Cheetah still did well as far as its numbers went. This was especially with the rulers preferring to raise these cats in captivity. It was during the British era that the numbers started to dwindle as they were killed for sport. Besides, man-animal conflict because of Cheetahs going for the livestock did not help matters. As per records, the last of the Cheetahs were spotted in 1968 in India.
So, that led to the decimation of the indigenous population. India did try back in the 1970s to get some Asiatic Cheetah’s from Iran, but then those plans had to be bundled off because of the regime change in Iran.
But here’s the good news. All the efforts of the past have borne fruit now. Soon India will be welcoming Cheetahs from Africa. The problem was that the Cheetah population was under stress in Africa too, so this move would breathe some fresh air into the species.
The first batch of eight Cheetahs will be moved to Madhya Pradesh in India. Kuno National Park will be their new home with a habitat and environment quite similar to Africa and a healthy prey population. The idea is to create a new home for the Cheetahs over two or three regions in India. Rajasthan is another state which could see the Cheetahs coming up.
The Indian government plans to move fifty Cheetahs over the next five years to spread them across habitats and ensure their growth in numbers. If successful, it would be a thumbs up for Cheetah conservation. It comes as a piece of good news that governments across two continents are thinking about conservation. 😊
The move is definitely a good one for India, where the four big cats of the world will be sharing territory again. More than that, it is a sheer pleasure to watch India’s and Africa’s efforts to conserve one of the fastest creatures in the world.
Hopefully, this beautiful cat can outrun its endangered tag and thrive in its new habitat!
Welcome home, Cheetah!!
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