Little cheetahs are really cute, aren’t they? Many people certainly believe it. For cheetahs, this turns out to be a plague, with humans loving them to death. No, literally we are driving the species to extinction.
Reports suggest that a century ago there were nearly 100,000 cheetahs in the world. Today, their number has dropped to around 7,000.
In India, it has been almost 70 years since cheetahs were declared locally extinct. Right now, efforts are underway to introduce African cheetahs from Namibia to India after they were found to be 89% similar to their Asian counterpart, which we have led to extinction here. At present, the only remaining Asian cheetahs are found in Iran and their population size is estimated to be less than 50.
Besides human encroachment and habitat destruction, the pet trade in cheetahs is believed to be responsible for the decline of this species of big cat. And, of course, there is also the hunt.
The last cheetah spotted in India was hunted at Chhattisgarh in 1947. Maharajah Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo is believed to have slaughtered the last three cheetahs. Subsequently, in 1952, they were declared extinct.
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Besides hunting, the ancient rulers of our country were even known to own cheetahs as pets. Mughal Emperor Akbar is said to have owned 9,000 cheetahs over the course of nearly 50 years. Experts suggest the first case of cheetah domestication in India – for running sport, that is to say, the pursuit of prey – dates back to the court of King Someshvara III of Kalyani in the 12th century.
“Eventually, somewhere in the early 18th century, the constant withdrawal of cheetahs from the wild, especially cubs, reached a critical point … And so, while their prey base and habitat survived much later, cheetahs were already very rare at the time the British consolidated their hold on India and started recording the presence of cheetahs, ”wrote Raza Kazmi, an environmentalist from Jharkhand, in 2019.
Besides their kindness, the docile nature of the animal is said to be another reason for their declining numbers. “The [cheetah] is easily tamed, it takes about six months to reduce it to a complete state of obedience and to complete its training. Many of these animals, when tamed, are as gentle and docile as a dog, delighted to be petted and quite in a good mood even with strangers, purring and rubbing up against their friends like cats do ” , William Thomas Blanford, UK naturalist, once explained.
A 2018 report also found more than 900 advertisements for poached cheetahs on social media and e-commerce sites. To date, it appears that around 300 baby cheetahs are trafficked each year through Somaliland in the Horn of Africa to buyers in the Middle East looking for ‘exotic pets. “.
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A 2016 National Geographic article actually described cheetahs as “the fastest land animal in the world and the hottest pet in the Middle East.” Laurie Marker, founder of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), told media that many exotic pet owners like to show off their cheetahs on their social media accounts. “There is a kind of overbidding on it, and there is a power of bragging. One of our messages is to “dislike” that sort of thing on social media, ”Marker noted.
The cubs that survive the trip from Somaliland to the Middle East sell for around $ 15,000 on the black market. But only about 50% of cubs survive. “Tiny, several-week-old baby cheetahs bottle-fed and purred weakly, their condition still dangerously precarious after their rescue from the illegal wildlife trade in the Horn of Africa… About half of the babies rescued from traffickers do not do not survive the trauma
Deploring the pet trade, Marker said “if this continues [on]… This kind of harvest causes the extinction of the population in a very short time.
Given that many Indians also enjoy having exotic animals as pets – with 32,645 Indians, in 25 states and five Union Territories admitting to having alive exotic species in their possession last year – it is relevant to ensure that African cheetahs brought into India territory do not fall prey to trade here.