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  • At the recent meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP 14), a researcher from the Indian delegation pronounced desertification as the primary cause of the extinction of the cheetah (and also the still-extant great Indian bustard) in India.
  • Two idiosyncratic traits of the animal undeniably led to its end:
  • One, the cat was very easy to tame: it was often trained to race down and hunt animals, almost like a hound — a ‘sport’ called coursing — and so was caught in large numbers for use in such hunts. Second, cheetahs were nearly impossible to breed in captivity.
  • Breeding captive cheetahs was such an incredible rarity that in 1613, Emperor Jahangir formally recorded the first and only instance, up to the 20th century, of a cheetah bred in captivity anywhere in the world in the book Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri.
  • The earliest reference to their domestication for the sport of coursing is from Manasollasa, the 12th century chronicle of the court activities of King Someshvara III of Kalyani
  • Such was the scale of cheetahs being taken out from the wild that 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
  • There is just a single record of a human fatality from a cheetah attack that we know of — the death of O.B. Irvine, Agent of Governor in Visakhapatnam, who died after being mauled by a captive cheetah that belonged to the Raja of Vizianagaram, during a coursing hunt in 1880
  • In fact, the term ‘Asiatic cheetah’ gained currency only after the species’ extinction in India; before this, it was known as the Indian cheetah.
  • 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.

July 2024