October 02, 2021

Reintroduction of cheetah in India after its extinction in 1952 - Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh

 Cheetah in India | Reintroduction of extinct cheetah in India| Kuno National Park| Cheetah extinct in India in 1952


World's fastest land mammal running at speeds upto 75 kmph is the cheetah. These predators from the cat family can be sighted running after their prey in the African savanna which is probably one of the few natural habitats left for cheetah. 

                                        


Cheetah in African Savanna 
    Image Source-  Google | Image by - piqsels

According to the estimates, around 7000 cheetahs are left in the wild and those left are facing threats of poaching and other causes such as habitat loss, poisoning by humans, and destruction of the prey population. 

While in the other parts of the world the condition has been more dreadful like in Asia where the cheetah was found in all the regions of Central Asia and South Asia however only a last few 50 are left in parts of wild Iran. 

These Asiatic cousins of African cheetah were similar in appearance but had a few differences in genome. A decent number of individuals were there in wild regions of India but habitat loss and excessive poaching led to their extinction and after sighting the last individual in the wild in 1947, the species was declared extinct in India in 1952. 

Since then, the authorities and the conservationist have been working in the direction of reintroducing cheetah in India, and after several failed attempts, the Supreme court of India has permitted to reintroduce a few individuals from Africa to India on an experimental basis and to study the feasibility of the project (courtesy - Hindustan Times)

Kuno national park in the state of Madhya Pradesh has been found suitable to match the natural habitat of cheetah and will be serving as the habitat of the first few cheetahs to be reintroduced in India after 1952. 

Characteristics of the Cheetah 

The cheetah has a narrow flexible body weighing around 30 to 70 kg with a unique spine and muscles that allow it to reach speeds of upto 110kmph(70mph) in just 3.5 seconds however it can maintain such speeds for few seconds as it results in sudden increase in body temperature and blood flow after which it has to be controlled or else would be fatal. 

                                       


Cheetah's flexible body assist in reaching speeds up to 110kmph  
    Image Source-  Google | Image by - pxfuel

Its tail helps in the high-speed chase as it helps it to maneuver. Unlike other cats, a cheetah's claws are not retractable with a padded foot which assists it to attain high speeds. It has a distinct black spot marking very different from jaguars and leopards. 

Cheetah has black tear stripes marking below their eyes which protects from the sun's glare in hot African Savanna. Unlike other big cats such as lions, jaguars, tigers, and leopards, Cheetah does not roar instead it growls and sometimes even purr while communicating with each other.

Kuno National Park 

It is located in the state of Madhya Pradesh spread along a 748 sqkm area consisting of varied biodiversity of flora and fauna. Kuno national park contains 143 species of plants most of which are kadhai, salai, and Khair. 

It has a large grassland area some even bigger than the famous Kanha national park and Bandhavgarh national park. The grassland provides suitable habitat for the reintroduction of the cheetah. The Kuno river runs through the national park and is the lifeline of the local ecosystem. 

It has a good variety of prey base for cheetahs such as Indian gazels, nilgai, sambhar deer, wild boar, blackbuck, and barking deer. Other predators include leopards, wild foxes, striped hyenas, and sloth bears.

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