How cheetahs went extinct in India?
- The cheetah is the only large carnivore to have gone extinct in India, primarily due to hunting and habitat loss.
- Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo of Korea, Madhya Pradesh, is widely believed to have killed the last three recorded cheetahs in India in 1947.
- In 1952, the Indian government officially declared the Cheetah extinct in the country.
Cheetah in Indian History:
- The earliest available record for cheetahs being used for hunts in India, comes from the 12th century Sanskrit text Manasollasa, which was produced by the KalyaniChalukya ruler, Someshvara III (reigned from 1127-1138 CE).
- According to the wildlife expert, “Cheetah coursing” or the use of trained cheetahs for hunting had become a highly specialized activity in the medieval period and was carried out on a large scale during the Mughal Empire.
- Emperor Akbar, who reigned from 1556-1605, was particularly fond of the activity and is recorded to have collected 9,000 cheetahs in total.
- AbulFazl, Akbar’s chief courtier, noted that the emperor had devised a new method to capture cheetahs. Akbar is said to have used shallow pits with an automatic trap door which would close after they fell inside.
- The capture of wild cheetahs for hunting and the difficulty to breed them in captivity was leading to a decline in the cheetah population, even before the entry of the British.
- Unlike the Mughals, the British were not very interested in coursing with the cheetahs. Rather, they preferred to hunt big game, such as tigers, bison and elephants.
- Under the British Raj, forests were extensively cleared, so as to develop settlements and to set up indigo, tea and coffee plantations.
- This further resulted in the loss of habitat for big cats, contributing to their decline.