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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cheetah ~ the fastest ! - racing towards extinction ?

In Tamil comedy film ‘Kalakalappu’, directed by Sundar C ~ Santhanam will show a portrait of a man attacking a cheetah with sickle. Vimal would remark having seen it elsewhere… Santhanam retorts saying that it was his grandfather attacking the tiger – the photo which they later gave to matchbox manufacturer….. to Vimal’s remark that it does not sound believable – Santhanam would say that his grandfather told him that food would be provided only if he believes and would ask Vimal whether he would like to dine !!!  Wimco Limited is a reputed manufacturer and exporter of Cardboard matches, Veneer Matches, Safety Matches, Match Box, Wax Matches and the more… you would know them better by this single product ‘Cheetah fight matchboxes’…..

Cheetah is a marvel ~ the fastest land animal.  Its  slender, long-legged body is built for speed. Cheetahs are tan in color with black spots all over their bodies. They can also be distinguished from other big cats by their smaller size, spotted coats, small heads and ears and distinctive "tear stripes" that stretch from the corner of the eye to the side of the nose. They eat mainly gazelles, wildebeest calves, impalas and smaller hoofed animals. When cheetahs are running, they use their tails to help them steer and turn in the direction they want to go, like the rudder of a boat.

In 1900, there were over 100,000 cheetahs across their historic range. Today, an estimated 9,000 to 12,000 cheetahs remain in the wild in Africa. One would be surprised to know that they were found throughout India right from the southern part of the Nation.  Found mostly in open and partially open savannah, cheetahs rely on tall grasses for camouflage when hunting.  Surprised to read that they cannot roar !! – typically they are loners.

Their lifespan in the wild is reportedly 10-12 years only.  As it is happening to many, the sleek, speedy cheetah is rapidly heading towards extinction according to a new study into declining numbers.  Fresh reports suggest that  there are just 7,100 of the world's fastest mammals now left in the wild. They are in trouble mainly because they range far beyond protected areas and are coming increasingly into conflict with humans. According to a study, more than half the world's surviving cheetahs live in one population that ranges across six countries in southern Africa. Cheetahs in Asia have been essentially wiped out. A group estimated to number fewer than 50 individuals clings on in Iran. Because the cheetah is one of the widest-ranging carnivores, it roams across lands far outside protected areas. As a result, the animal struggles because these lands are increasingly being developed by farmers and the cheetah's prey is declining because of bushmeat hunting.

In Zimbabwe, the cheetah population has fallen from around 1,200 to just 170 animals in 16 years, with the main cause being major changes in land tenure. The illegal trade in cheetah cubs has been driven by their status as a fashion icon in the Gulf states. Researchers involved with the study say that the threats facing the fabled predator have gone unnoticed for far too long. The young cats can fetch up to $10,000 on the black market. According to the Cheetah Conservation Fund, some 1,200 cheetah cubs are known to have been trafficked out of Africa over the past 10 years but around 85% of them died during the journey.

The new study argues for a "paradigm shift in conservation", moving away from the idea of just declaring an area to be protected and towards incorporating "incentive-based approaches". This, in essence, means paying local communities to protect a species that many see as a dangerous predator. "The take-away from this pinnacle study is that securing protected areas alone is not enough," said Dr Kim Young-Overton from Panthera, another author on the report..

It is stated that till last century, the Asiatic cheetah was quite common and roamed all the way from Israel, the Arabian Peninsula to Iran, Afghanistan and India. In India, they ranged as far south as the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. The Asiatic cheetah, also known as the "hunting leopard" in India was kept by kings and princes to hunt gazelle; the Moghul emperor Akbar kept them for hunting gazelle and blackbucks.  .. .. blackbucks have been hunted for long !! is also the message.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
28th Dec 2016
Inputs taken from : Guardian, BBC, Wikipedia, and Natgeo.  Photo credit :

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