Comebacks: October 2009 Archives

The Indian Cheetah: Return From Extinction?

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indian cheetah 2.jpgAsiatic cheetahs once were the dominant inhabitants of the Indian grasslands. Today none are left anywhere but in Iran, where 100 are still surviving. Few Asiatic cheetahs are raised in captivity, and only one litter has been bred in India. They were called "hunting leopards" during Britain's colonialism of India because they were used by the royalty to hunt wild antelope until the cats themselves became hunters' trophies. Habitat loss to growing farmlands also led to the cheetah's eventual extinction.

But reintroducing them is not an easy task either. Iran refused India's requests for two Asiatic cheetahs and would not let them have samples from a captive cheetah that might enable scientists to clone the species. As a result, India is considering importing African cheetahs instead of the Asiatic ones. Because there are few differences between them scientists do not think there will be a problem with introducing the African subspecies.

Some environmentalists are concerned that the cheetahs will be living in a huge zoo-like environment and not truly in the wild. Other threats include poaching due to pecuniary causes or genetic similarities, which cause deficient immune systems and, in cheetahs, deformed tails. Another danger is farmers' concerns for their livestock, which may lead them to hunt the cats. However, cheetahs, preferring wild prey, do not actually kill domesticated animals if they can help it. The males, however, will include farmland as part of their territory, causing problems. (Females do not mark territories.)

Hopefully the Indian government will succeed in its efforts to import the cheetahs, because they are the only big cats not found in India, as their tiger and lion populations are growing. And - hopefully soon - the fastest land animal in the world will again prevail on the plains of India.

More Information:
India plans return of the cheetah
Asiatic Cheetah
India asks for roadmap for reintroduction of cheetahs

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