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The Cheetah Affair

On 16th January 2024, it was reported that another cheetah died in Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh, India. He is the seventh Cheetah to die out of the 20 African Cheetahs that were originally reintroduced to the Indian Sub-Continent in mid-2022. The Asiatic Cheetah was quite abundant in its native lands of India, most of the Middle East, and Afghanistan before the dawn of the 20th century; however, it started facing its decline and eventual extinction in the country during the mid-1900s. It is now found only in Iran, being sorted in the critically endangered list.


The cheetah is a majestic animal, the fastest runner, and it appealed to the kings who ruled India. Akbar owned nearly a thousand of them and used them for hunting, exploiting the species with a poor and confined livelihood. The last cats were killed by the monarch himself, Maharaja of Surguja, in 1948.  Their captivity meant lower rates of birth and a major head towards a staggering and diminishing population, which seemed to be the initial problem; however, major destruction of habitat resulted in further aggravation.

Since its nationwide extinction, the Indian government has made several attempts at reintroducing the cheetah but did not receive much hope from Iran, as it demanded the import of Asian lions from India to trade with its meager population of Asian cheetahs. But the government refused.


Finally, a decision to transport African cheetahs from South Africa was taken, and the first batch of 12 cheetahs was brought to India in 2022 from Namibia.


The attention given to this great feline is a commendable initiative on the part of the government, but we have plundered and caused the loss of habitat for my other animals. Besides habitat loss, man-made activities are also responsible for the nearly extinct state of the Vulture. The vulture in an ecosystem is of great ecological importance. It is a scavenger and would often feed on dead cattle used to work on farms; however, farmers and others administered a drug called diclofenac to their cattle to increase working hours. This drug caused no harm to the cows and the buffaloes, but when a much smaller animal, the vulture, consumed its dead matter, the high concentration of the drug would immediately cause organ failure, and so the population of the vulture perished greatly. In 2006, Diclofenac was banned for veterinary use. The vultures are bred in captivity to boost reproduction, an attempt at rekindling their population in the country.


Several other animals are either extinct or critically endangered in India, and the government has come up with various projects to conserve their population. Project Tiger, Project Elephant, and so on. They indicate the state of animal life in our nation. We can employ man-made efforts, but just like replanting trees will never make up for deforestation, the reintroduction and captive breeding of animals like cheetahs and vultures will never make up for their original loss. Evident from the successive deaths of the cat family, which was flown in from South Africa.


 The special attention given to the cheetah is great; however, it is not something that can be appreciated in its entirety. Climate change and the growing population of humans pose a threat to native animals' habitatst and mimicking their existing population is a brave attempt but also a sad one, reminding us of the damage caused by the so-called superior animal, man.


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Tags: IUCN list Kuno National reserve Asiatic cheetah


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