Explained: How cheetahs went extinct in India, and the plan to reintroduce them into the wild

A 10 square kilometer enclosure has reportedly been equipped in the national park and will soon house at least 6 leopards. A senior ministry official said a plan is underway to introduce 8-10 cheetahs each year.

The cheetah is the only carnivorous animal that has become extinct in India, mainly due to hunting and loss of habitat. It is widely believed that Maharaja Ramanoj Pratap Singh Deo of Korea, Madhya Pradesh, killed the last three recorded leopards in India in 1947. In 1952, the Indian government officially declared the cheetah extinct in the country.

Hunting with cheetahs

The best of Express Premium
Explanation: how it collapsed excellent
To facilitate spending: UPI credit link, rural housing loans from banksexcellent
John Britas writes: The media must be held accountable for circulating the hat...excellent
Bebeck Debroy writes: Under mysterious laws, bees are fish and cats are dogsexcellent

For centuries, hunting has been a favorite activity of India’s royal family. The leopard, which was relatively easy to tame and less dangerous than tigers, was used by Indian nobles for sport hunting. The oldest available record of cheetahs used for hunting in India, comes from the 12th century Sanskrit text Manasollasa, produced by the Kalyani Chalukya ruler, Someshvara III (reigned 1127-1138 CE).

Cheetah tracking, or the use of trained cheetahs for hunting, according to wildlife expert Divyabhanusinh, became a highly specialized activity in the medieval period and was carried out on a large scale during the Mughal Empire. Emperor Akbar, who ruled from 1556-1605, was particularly fond of the activity and was recorded as having amassed 9,000 cheetahs in total.

Abul-Fadl, the chief of Akbar’s retinue, noted that the emperor had devised a new method for capturing leopards. In earlier times, people would dig deep pits for animals to fall into, but sometimes they would break their legs in the process. Akbar is said to have solved the problems by digging shallow pits with an automatic trap door that would close after it fell inside.

The leopards were then trained so that they could take part in the royal hunt and according to Abu 1 Fadl, the process took 3-4 months.

Emperor Jahangir (who reigned from 1605 to 1627) took over after his father and is said to have hunted more than 400 antelopes by hunting cheetahs at Barjana Balam – the site near today’s New Delhi International Airport.

Divyabhanusinh notes that the demand for cheetahs for hunting purposes was so high that certain areas, which had a large population, were set aside for their capture, such as Rajasthan’s Jodhpur, Jhunjhunu, Punjab’s Bathinda and Haryana’s Hisar.

The capture of wild leopards for hunting and the difficulty of breeding them in captivity led to a decline in cheetah numbers even before the British entered.

Near extinction under British rule

Unlike the Mongols, the British were not very interested in hunting down leopards. Instead, they preferred to hunt large game, such as tigers, bison and elephants. Under British rule, forests were cleared on a large scale, both for the development of settlements and for the establishment of indigo, tea and coffee plantations. This also led to the loss of the habitat of the big cats, which contributed to their decline.

While tigers were the animals of choice for the British shekar, Indian and British “sport” hunters also targeted leopards. There is evidence to suggest that British officials regarded the animal as “insects” and also distributed monetary rewards for killing leopards from at least 1871 onwards.

In Sindh, the reward for killing a leopard cub was 6 rupees, and 12 rupees for an adult. Environmental historian Mahesh Rangarajan argues that the administrative policy of the British Raj played a “major role in the (leopard) extermination of India”. It is possible that the rewards of hunting bounties caused the number of cheetahs to decline, even removing a small number would have negatively affected the ability of wild cheetahs to reproduce even at the lowest level required for survival. As a result, wild leopards became very rare in India by the 20th century.

International trade of cheetahs

In contrast to the British, Indian elites and rulers of princely states continued the ancient practice of hunting with cheetahs in the 1920s. Notable figures among them were the Maharaja of Kolhapur and the Maharaja of Bhavnagar. However, by this time, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find leopards in the wild.

While it has been suggested that this would be the first transcontinental movement of a large carnivorous animal to India, Divyabhanusinh has argued that purchases of leopards from Africa occurred in the 20th century. He says the princely states of Bhavnagar and Kolhapur were the main importers of leopards between 1918 and 1939.

Just before the start of World War I, Maharaja Bhavsingi II, who ruled Bhavnagar state from 1896 to 1919, sent Chief Constable Krishna Chandra Singh to Kenya to purchase a leopard. By the 1930s, the state of Bhavnagar was said to have 32 imported cheetahs.

Cheetahs continued to be imported into independent India in small numbers, especially for exhibitions in zoos.

Between 1949 and 1989, about 7 zoos owned 25 cheetahs, all of which originally came from foreign countries. Divyabhanusinh notes that most likely almost all of it was obtained from Africa.

Request to resubmit

If the reintroduction of leopards into the wild is successful, it will be the culmination of a decades-long process.

The Andhra Pradesh Wildlife Board was first to propose the policy in 1955, on an experimental basis in two districts of the state.

In the 1970s, the Ministry of Environment officially asked Iran, which had 300 Asiatic cheetahs at the time, for some cheetahs. The Shah of Iran was overthrown before any deal was reached.

There are two subspecies of leopards recognized today, the Asian (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) and the African (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus). However, ecologist Ghazala Shahabuddin argues that there is still debate as to whether there is a biological basis for their differentiation, as cross-continental cheetahs are seen as genetically comparable.

This has led Devyabanesinh to argue that the introduction of the African cheetah would not pose a threat to the Indian environment.

Attempts to bring cheetahs to India were revived again in 2009, when the Ministry of Environment and Forests, headed by then Congressman Jeram Ramesh, and the Wildlife Fund of India held a meeting to discuss the feasibility of reintroducing the cheetah. Several sites were selected, of which Kono Balpur National Park was considered the most suitable.

the news | Click to get the best explanation of the day in your inbox

According to ecologist Ghazala Shahabuddin, this was because a large area of ​​habitat was available in the area, and significant investments had already been made to displace the villagers who inhabited the site.

The Supreme Court in 2010 upheld the order to reintroduce the cheetah to Kono Balbor because the National Wildlife Council was not privy to the matter. The court said that priority should be given to reintroduction of the Asiatic lion, which is only found in Gir National Park, Gujarat.

In 2020, while responding to an appeal from the government, the Supreme Court announced that African leopards could be introduced to a “carefully chosen location” on a trial basis.

Leave a Comment