Acinonyx jubatus venaticus
- It is a Critically Endangered cheetah subspecies surviving today only in Iran.
- It once occurred from the Arabian Peninsula and the Near East to the Caspian region, Kyzyl-Kum Desert and India, but has been eradicatedthere during the 20th century.
- The Asiatic cheetah diverged from the cheetah population in Africa between 32,000 and 67,000 years ago.
- The word ‘cheetah’ is derived from the Sanskrit chitraka, which means ‘spotted’.
- The earliest visual evidence of the Asiatic cheetah, dating back to 2500 to 2300 BCE, is found in cave paintings in Kharvai and Khairabad, and in the upper Chambal valley, in Madhya Pradesh.
- In 1935, a supplement published by the Journal of Bombay Natural History Societygave an indication of the cheetah’s erstwhile range: it roamed from Bengal to the United Provinces, Punjab and Rajputana, Central India to the Deccan.
- Asiatic cheetah has a buff- to light fawn-coloured fur that is paler on the sides, on the front of the muzzle, below the eyes and inner legs.
- Small black spots are arranged in lines on the head and nape, but irregularly scattered on body, legs, paws and tail.
- The tail tip has black stripes. The coat and mane are shorter than of African cheetah subspecies.
- Head to body length 112–135cm
- Tail length 66–84 cm
- Weighs about 34–54 kg
- Males are slightly larger than the females.Causes for extinction in India
- Indian Cheetah was intrinsically docile natured like dogs, it never evoked fear that tigers, lions and leopards did.
- These animals were tamed and used to hunt down wild antelopes.
- The earliest reference to the taming of Cheetahs for sport of hunting is recorded in the 12th century chronicle of the court activities of King Someshvara III of Kalyani.
- The sport gained popularity across peninsular India during the medieval ages, but they were unable to breed in the captivity.
- Emperor Akbar is said to have acquired a staggering 9,000 cheetahs for his royal menagerie during his 49-year reign in the 16th century.
- The captive breeding of cheetahs was such rare that the first and only instance, up to the 20th century formally recorded, in 1613, Emperor Jahangir anywhere in the world in the book Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri.
- In order to keep the sport alive, the wild cheetahs were constantly trapped from their natural habitats, especially cubs, to over centuries.
- During the early 18th century, the constant removal of cheetahs and cubs from the wild, reached a tipping point, while their prey base and habitat survived till much later.
- Their population were already and about 414 individual animals were recorded between 1772 and 1997.
- According to Environmental historian Mahesh Rangarajan, the British government further classified cheetahs as “vermin” and offering rewards for their destruction from around 1871 onwards.
- In 1951-52, cheetahs were considered extinct by the Indian government.