The world’s fastest land animal, the cheetah, extinct in India since 1952, may soon return. The government intends to bring in some from foreign lands.
“The cheetah is the only animal to have been declared extinct in India in the last 1000 years,” Jairam Ramesh, union minister for environment and forests, told the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. “We have to get them from abroad to repopulate the species here.”
Indiscriminate hunting led to the cheetah’s disappearance. Although no census was conducted then, accounts by wildlife enthusiasts claim there were several thousand cheetahs in India in the early 20th century. Earlier still, Emperor Akbar alone is said to have owned nearly 1000 cheetahs.
The last physical evidence of the Asiatic cheetah in India dates from 1947, when three of them were shot by an Indian prince during a hunt. It was officially declared extinct in November 1952.
The Wildlife Trust of India, an NGO, has already submitted a proposal to the ministry to import cheetahs. “We’re getting a technical study done on whether re-introduction of cheetah’s will be feasible,” Ramesh told HT.
No more than 70-100 Asiatic cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) currently survive. They are only found in Pakistan and Iran.