photo: World Resources Institute via flickr.
More on the ongoing efforts to re-establish the cheetah in India: The Hindu reports that Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, just returned from a survey trip to a South African cheetah research center, has indicated that African cheetahs could be brought to Indian within three years. Ramesh said that India is currently looking at programs in South Africa, Namibia, and Kenya to help with the re-establishment efforts. "Just as the tiger is a symbol of the forest habitat, the cheetah symbolizes our vanishing grasslands. It is a valuable icon."
WATCH VIDEO: Ultimate Guide to Big Cats - Pressure on Cheetahs
Once Common, Cheetahs Long Gone From India
The last recorded sighting of a cheetah in India was in 1947, when three were shot in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Hunting, habitat loss and the subsequent decline of cheetah's chief prey, deer and gazelle, are credited with the terminal decline of the population in India.
In previous centuries cheetahs were common throughout India, with Moghul emperors reportedly keeping thousands of them, captured from the wild, to help on hunting expeditions.
Hunting blackbuck with cheetah engraving from 1812, Wikipedia.
Current Asiatic Cheetahs Hang On, Barely, In Iran
Currently the Asiatic Cheetah, a subspecies of the African Cheetah, lives only in a small part of Iran, with occasional sightings in the western parts of Pakistan. Critically endangered, the total population is thought to be less than 100 individuals.
Let's hope the program works: Considering that the common name for the animal known to science as Acinonyx jubatus comes from India--via the Sanskrit word "chitrakayah" and the Hindi word "cheetaa"--is no longer found there.
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More on Endangered Species:
Only 121 Breeding Tigers Left in Nepal, First Nationwide Assessment Finished
Cheetahs on the Brink of Extinction, UN Reports Ecologist John Donlan on Bringing Sexy Animals Back via "Rewilding"