Although the Asiatic Cheetah
is presumed to be extinct in India
, it used to be known as the Indian Cheetah
. Today, world’s last few Asiatic Cheetah are known to survive in Iran
, which is why it is now also known as the Iranian Cheetah. The head and the body of the adult Asiatic Cheetah measure from 112 to 135 cm with a tail length between 66 and 84 cm. It can weigh from 34 to 54 kg, but the male is slightly larger than the female. Females, unlike males, do not establish a territory, which means they travel within their habitats, sometimes migrating long distances. Cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal and is the most unique and specialized member of the cat family and can reach the speeds of 70 mph. Unlike the other cats, it has a leaner body, longer legs. With its weak jaws and small teeth, it cannot fight larger predators to protect its kills or young. It is often mistaken for a leopard. Its distinguishing marks are the long teardrop-shaped lines on each side of the nose from the corner of its eyes to its mouth. It is aerodynamically built for speed and is endowed with a powerful heart, oversized liver, and large, strong arteries.
☛ Asiatic Cheetah once ranged from Arabia to India, through Iran, central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly numerous in India and Iran. But today, it is only found in Iran, with some occasional sightings in Baluchistan, Pakistan.
☛ The Mughal Emperor of India, Akbar, was said to have had 1,000 Cheetahs at one time (something depicted in many Persian and Indian miniature paintings.)
☛ From the beginning of twentieth century, the species was already heading to extinction in many areas.
☛ The last physical evidence of the Asiatic Cheetah in India was three shot by the Maharajah of Surguja in 1947 in eastern Madhya Pradesh.
☛ By 1990, the Asiatic Cheetah appeared to survive only in Iran.
The population is Iran are the last remaining representatives of the Asian lineage.
► FEEDS ON
☛ Cheetahs are the only big cats that can be tamed and trained to hunt gazelle. It preys on small antelopes.
☛ In Iran, its diet consists mainly of Jebeer Gazelle( also called Chinkara) , Goitered Gazelle, wild sheep, wild goat and Cape Hare.
☛ In areas where their wild prey is in decline, they are forced to eat livestock.
They turn to hunting domestic animals because they could not survive on smaller prey.
► STATUS & THREATS
☛ The Asiatic Cheetah is a critically endangered subspecies of the Cheetah. Estimated to number more than 200 during the 1970s and a very few are left now.
☛ Estimates based on field surveys over ten years indicate a remaining population of 70-100 Asiatic Cheetahs, most of them in Iran.
☛ The Cheetah’s habitat is under threat from desertification, increasing agriculture, residential settlements and declining prey- caused by hunting and degradation by pastures by overgrazing from introduced livestock.
☛ Habitat loss from mining development and poaching of Asiatic Cheetah is also threatening their population in Iran.
☛ The numerous constraints regarding the Cheetah’s conservation contribute to its general susceptibility and it’s very complex conservation requirements, e.g., its low fertility rate, the high mortality rate due to genetic factors, and the fact that females are the ones who select mates, have been reasons why captive breeding has had such a poor record.
☛ All living Cheetah have very limited genetic diversity due to a near-extinction event some 12,000 years ago.
► CONSERVATION EFFORTS
☛ Iran’s Department of the Environment, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) have launched the Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP) designed to preserve and rehabilitate the remaining areas of Cheetah habitat left in Iran.
☛ Cheetah Friends: Another incentive in the region is the formation of young core groups of Cheetah Friends, who after a short instructive course, are able to educate people and organize Cheetah events and have become an informational instance in Cheetah matters for a number of villages.
☛ In January 2010, Iran and Russia jointly announced plans to revive both the Asiatic Cheetah and the Amur Tiger species in and around the Caspian region through a joint project in the near future.
☛ India is interested in cloning the Cheetah to reintroduce it to the country, but Iran refused to send a male and a female Cheetah. Also in May 2012, India’s Supreme Court suspended attempts to introduce African Cheetahs following the publication of newer genetic evidence, which suggests that the Asian and African Cheetahs are genetically very distinct.
Image Copyrights: IR DoE/CACP/WCS/UNDP