Cheetahs In India

Cheetahs in India

Recently, eight Namibian wild cheetahs, five females and three males were brought to India at Kuno national park.

Declared extinct in India in 1952, this is the first time in the world that a large carnivore will be relocated from one continent to another.

Common name- Cheetah

Scientific name- Acinonyx jubatus

Type- Mammals

Diet- Carnivore

Average life span in wild- Upto 14 years

Average life span in captivity- Upto to 20 years

Size; body-3.7 to 4.6 feet., tail-two to 2.7 feet

Weight- 77 to 143 pounds

Conservation status- Vulnerable (IUCN)

                                   Appendix 1(CITES)

                                   Endangered (Endangered Species Act- USA)

About cheetah:

  • The cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world. With an acceleration that would leave most automobiles in the dust, a cheetah can go from zero to 60 kilometers per hour in just three seconds. It is believed that wild cheetahs can reach speeds of almost 70 kilometers per hour- although they can only manage this speed for approx. 30 seconds. These cats run at high speeds, and are able to move quickly, and suddenly hunt prey.
    There is debate about whether the cheetah is a "big cat". Some scholars says that the term refers only to cats that can roar: lions, tigers, jaguars and leopards.
  • Cheetahs cannot roar, although they can purr. Still, conservation groups accept a broader definition of "big cats’’, which also includes snow leopards and cougars. Although their speed makes them formidable hunters, cheetahs are the most dangerous big cats in the world.
  • The international union for conservation of nature currently lists the cheetah as vulnerable. However, in recent years scientists have argued that cheetahs should instead be considered endangered, highlighting the great loss in the cheetah population. Fewer than 7,000 adult cheetahs remain in the wild. 

CHEETAHS IN INDIAStructure and Habitat:

  • Cheetahs are famous for their coats covered in black spots, each designed in a unique pattern to help the animals recognize each other.
  • Black and purple stripes run from the corners of their eyes to both sides of their mouths, and black rings run along the ends of their colorful tails. As the only big cats with a semi-retractable claw instead of the highly flexible (full retractable) claws that enable lions to tear flesh and climb trees. Cheetahs are the sole member of genus acinonyx.
    The coat of a cheetah can vary depending on their habitat. Although they prefer grasslands, cheetahs live in many habitats across eastern and southern Africa.
  • One species, the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah, can only be found in Iran, and they are only a few hundred. Cheetahs in desert areas are sometimes smaller with paler coats, while some southern African cheetahs have a genetic mutation that gives them large spots and even stripes. There also has been the rare sight of the spotless cheetah in Kenya. 
  • Cheetahs' bodies are adapted in a unique way to help them achieve maximum speed, thanks to their slender limbs, and hard foot pads to the flexible spine that gives them their long strides. The cat's light tail acts as a rudder and its retractable claws act like the spikes of a sprinter's shoe to give stability during the chase.
  • Cheetahs also have large nostrils that help them ingest oxygen, while the shape of their inner ears help them maintain balance also keep their heads still while running.
  • Before setting off on their run, cheetahs use their keen eyesight to scan grasslands for food, mainly antelopes and warthogs, although cheetahs will also feed on smaller animals such as rabbits and birds. The cheetah is a daylight hunter that boasts an ungainly speed and a spotted coat that allows it to easily blend into the tall, dry grass.
  • Cheetahs start hunting by chasing their prey. When the time is right, the cheetah will run after prey and try to knock it down. Such pursuits cost the hunter a lot of energy and usually last less than a minute. If successful, the cheetah quickly begins to eat its prey to prevent opportunistic animals such as lions and hyenas from getting in the way. Cheetahs rarely eat and stay hydrated by drinking the blood or urine of their prey.


Social structure and reproduction:

  • Unlike lions, cheetahs do not live in groups. Cheetahs live alone, with a large habitat. Females in areas such as the serengeti, where the prey is migratory, often follow herds.
  • During this period, the males are alone or form  small coalitions with one or two other males, usually their littermates (The young animals that are born to one mother at the same time). Some males establish small territories where they are most likely to find a mate. Male and female cheetahs mate with multiple partners, and research shows that offspring from the same litter can have different fathers.
  • Female cheetahs often have litters of three cubs that live with them for about a year and a half. Children use this time to learn from their mothers and practice hunting and playing games. After leaving their mother, littermates stay together for another six months before the females strike out on their own.

 


Threat to survival:

  • Cheetah populations are under pressure as the open grasslands they love disappear to human occupation and development. Given their solitary lives and their limited habitat, cheetahs need large, connected habitats-likely upwards of 3,800 square miles - to find mates and finally live as a species. However, human settlement have fragmented their habitat and many protected areas are not enough  to support the cheetah population.
  • Conflict with humans, whom they are increasingly sharing space with, poses another threat. If a cheetah kills a goat or sheep, the cattle owner may kill the cheetah in retaliation.
  • Cheetahs are also threatened by poaching and the illegal trade, where they are sold for skins and as pet. No one knows how many cubs are taken from the wild every year, but some estimates say it could be in several hundreds.
  • Cheetahs maintain fierce competition for prey, and their cubs are often vulnerable to predation from lions. 
  • Compounding all these problems, the cheetah has a very low genetic diversity, important for the species to develop in the face of environmental changes and diseases. This lack of genetic variation is thought to have led to their near extinction at the end of the last ice age - and scientists fear that it is the only making them extinct today.



Conservation:

  • Cheetahs conservation is especially challenging because of their territorial limits - it requires a great deal of regional cooperation between countries.
  • Hunting cheetahs is illegal in most countries where they can be found, as is keeping them as pets. They have been protected from international trade since 1975, under the convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora (CITES)
  • In Africa, almost all countries of cat range are participating in local conservation efforts that aim to prevent habitat loss by promoting land use planning, raising awareness of the need to protect cheetahs, and to promote peaceful coexistence of cheetahs and humans.

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