Wildlife forms one of the important links to processing our nature and environment. It is connected to us humans, both socially and emotionally.
Imagining a life without animals like the Asiatic Cheetah is next to impossible as they form our support system in providing income, clothing, and food. Hence conservation of wildlife is vital for us.
Asiatic Cheetah and other wildlife have always been the fantasy of mankind. It could be for hunting, sports, or educational purposes, and wildlife has always mystified humans.
Photographing animals in open habitats is enjoyed the most by us. While bird-watching has been probably one of the most popular wildlife watching sports, observing native animals will reveal a lot of information on their habits.
(It is most important to remember that these animals should not be disturbed while watching or photographing them.
We may be very anxious to get a close look, but it is necessary to consider that they may be busy nesting or feeding their young, and no one likes getting disturbed at such times.)
Why is Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Important for us?
The importance of wildlife animals like the Asiatic Cheetah can be differentiated into various categories – ecological, economic, preservation of biological classes and so on.
Therefore, it is important that we also contribute to maintaining a balance of the wildlife on our earth.
Most of us would remember the food cycle we studied during school on how each group of animals is dependent on each other. By the continuously killing of carnivorous species like the Asiatic Cheetah, herbivorous species will increase, which will affect forest vegetation.
Lack of food in the forest will force them to wander out into our world. It is thus necessary to maintain the ecological balance because being great predators animals contribute a lot to our environment.
Any primary material necessary to start an industry is provided by wildlife. Food, medicine, fibre, timber, ivory, silk, all this is obtained from our wildlife. It contributes to a better world in terms of increasing trade and income of any nation.
All these form an important source of income and play a major role in developing the economy.
Preservation of Biological Classes –
Any ecosystem is more stable if its wildlife is preserved as this leads naturally to the diversity and conservation of the environment.
Protect WildLife Like the Asiatic Cheetah From Getting Endangered
Wildlife is facing a lot of threats because of numerous reasons like climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, invading species all over the world. As per estimates, more than 27,000 species are at risk of extinction, and many more are disappearing.
Each of us is interconnected by the food chain, and the loss of one will result in a loss for all survivors on earth.
If Cheetah’s slowly vanishes, there will be a domino effect in the environment which won’t be good for any of us living beings. Cheetahs keep the ecosystem in balance, and that is why it is important to save them.
In addition to that, our future generation should know and enjoy our natural world, and all this is possible only if we have a strong wildlife world.
There are so many animals that are getting endangered, and some of them are the tiger, giant panda, gorilla, Asian elephant, Asiatic Cheetah.
Today, let’s talk about the Asiatic Cheetah in detail.
10 Facts about Asiatic Cheetah
Cheetah, the fastest animal on land, is known for its breathtaking speed. The body of the Cheetah is designed to speed down through terrains to hunt down its prey. These big cats are athletic, lanky, and have a master camouflage with distinctive spots.
Unlike the other big cat family members, the cheetahs do not roar. Their sound is similar to the meow and purr of your pet cat. Its tear-streaked face and spotted coat make it one of the most attractive animals.
The name Cheetah is derived from the Sanskrit word “Citrakayah” – Citra means displaying various spots and streaks, and Kaya means body. Cheetahs are mostly found in Southern Eastern Africa (desert areas) and a lesser population in North Africa and NorthEastern Iran.
Studies show that about four subspecies of the Cheetah was present thousands of years ago in North America, but these big cats must have migrated to Africa through the Bering Strait.
The Asiatic Cheetah, scientific name Acinonyx Jubatus Venaticus, is a cheetah subspecies and was widely found across the desert regions of Asia.
But now, they are restricted to only exist in Iran, some in their natural habitat and some reared in protected areas.
This African cousin is also called the Iranian Cheetah or Indian Cheetah, even though it is extinct in India.
It is believed that during the rule of the British in India, the cheetahs were kept captive and the kings of India used them for hunting.
Some of the interesting facts about the Asiatic Cheetah are:
1. Super Speedster –
The fastest animal on the earth, Acinonyx Jubatus Venaticus, covers about 200-300 meters in a minute at a speed of 0 to 60 miles/hour. When it is running at full speed, it is said to take about two to three strides in a second, thus covering about seven meters in a stride. It is therefore not surprising that they get tired quickly.
Asiatic Cheetahs are said to move about for only 12% in a day as they conserve their energy for their strides.
Their claws work like studs of a racing shoe and their body like a rudder which helps them agility while chasing their prey.
2. Habitat –
The Asiatic Cheetah is found in Eastern Iran and Central Iran in arid regions and desert plains and at the foothills under a wide range of vegetation types. An essential feature of their habitat is that they require enough shelter for hunting and resting.
The Asiatic cheetahs are also found under gently sloping mountains. It concentrates on areas where the antelopes are less as it seems the cheetahs prefer to hunt in such regions rather than where the gazelles are found in abundance.
3. Appearance –
Asiatic cheetahs have distinct spots over their bodies, common in the cheetah species, with larger spots on their long tail. On its nape and head, the spots are arranged in a few lines.
The Cheetah’s fur colour ranges from fawn colour to buff colour, with the colour getting paler under its belly and sides. The head of the Cheetah is small with its eyes set high and a tear mark running from its eye down to its jaws.
The mane of an adult Asiatic cheetah is small when compared to that of its African cousin.
The height of adult Asiatic cheetahs is about 32″, and their body length ranges from 44″ to 53″. The thickness of the Cheetah’s coat against that of the African Cheetah is less due to its arid habitat.
The claws of the Asiatic Cheetah are not retractable, thus offering it immense traction while sprinting.
The weight of a male Asiatic cheetah is slightly larger than a female cheetah and can range between 35kg to 54kg.
4. Diet –
The Asiatic Cheetah is a carnivore and prefers small to medium-sized mammals like antelopes, wild sheep, oryx, cape hares. Its primary prey is the antelope, which is found abundant in the Cheetah’s range.
The hunting time of the Cheetah is usually during the day. It is believed that cats avoid night hunting to decrease conflicts with other bigger nocturnal predators.
Before the Cheetah’s extinction in India, it is believed to have preyed on nilgai, blackbuck and some records show it preyed on domestic animals.
During hunting, the Asiatic cheetahs camouflage themselves with the surrounding vegetation until their prey is at a striking distance and then make their striking move.
The cheetahs rarely begin to feed their prey immediately after killing as it likes to allow their body temperature to decrease due to the heavy panting.
The Cheetah’s sharp teeth are used to slice the flesh and consume as much as it can before it leaves the rest for scavengers. There are no records that show Asiatic cheetahs have preyed on or attacked humans.
5. Behaviour –
The Acinonyx Jubalus Venaticus are among the least temperamental compared to the African cheetahs. They can be easily tamed, and it is found that ancient Asian rulers have been said to own cheetahs.
The territorial tendencies are more highlighted in the male cheetahs when compared to the female Asiatic Cheetah. The male Cheetah establishes territories ranging from 22 square miles to 62 square miles by marking its borders through urine and claw scratches. The female cheetahs leave scent marks in their urine to attract males.
Mating usually occurs at night. Whenever a cheetah is trapped in a dangerous situation, its immediate response is to flee. This is because the Cheetah’s claws or jaws are not strong enough to attack its predator.
But in some extreme cases, the Cheetah holds its ground by displaying extreme aggression by growling, hissing, and sudden stamping its forelimbs.
6. Threats –
The decline and extinction of the Cheetah in Asia are mainly due to poaching, construction of infrastructure development in their habit, and depletion of their prey species.
In Iran, the Asiatic Cheetah is facing reduction due to habitat degradation due to drought, overgrazing of livestock, and construction of mineral reservoirs in areas where the cheetah habitats.
The Asiatic cheetahs are also killed because of the growth of road and rail networks. The Cheetah’s population seems to have faced many threats, and as per its genetic DNA, this appears to have started about 10,000 years ago.
The low number of Asiatic cheetahs is a cause for concern, and it looks like they seem to be affected by the genetic diversity, making them a critically endangered species.
Increased inbreeding and loss of rare genes lead to lower birth rates, vulnerability to diseases, and higher mortality among the Asiatic cheetahs.
7. Reproduction –
The male cheetahs generally start looking for a mate at about one year of age. Females begin when they are about two years. The male Asiatic Cheetah has a low sperm count, which is why the low breeding success.
The female Iranian Cheetah is known to have about four cubs, and it is found that they rarely raise their cubs. The breeding success depends on the availability of prey for this endangered species.
The male cheetahs stay together or in a group, and in cases where there are only one or two cubs, they join another group of males. The female Cheetah usually takes care of her cubs until they reach the age of one. After that, they are left to fend on their own.
8. Conservation –
The Asiatic Cheetah has been included in the growing number of endangered animals list. Hunting has been prohibited in Iran, and the Cheetah has been declared a protected animal by the Iranian Council since 1959.
The Iranian Cheetah Society was established to save and protect this species, and a Cheetah conservation fund exists in support of the wildlife conservation society. Measures to spread information and awareness campaigns have been implemented right from the school level.
Lack of natural habitat is a major issue. Most of the protected areas are not suitable to increase the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah population. Efforts to monitor the activities providing data on the Asiatic Cheetah are being done to reintroduce cheetahs into a safe zone.
Protection outside the natural habitats has been given high importance. Efforts have been made to provide enough wild prey for the Asiatic cheetahs by protecting them.
9. Asiatic Cheetah VS African Cheetahs –
There are a lot of differences between Asiatic and African cheetahs. The fur of the African Cheetah is thicker and light to a golden brown. The build of both these cats is different, with the African cheetahs sturdier than the Asiatic Cheetah.
Spots are also more highlighted on the face when compared to the Asiatic Cheetah. The cheetahs roaming the African and Asian continents was said to be more than 100,000 about a century ago.
But now, these figures have dropped low, with the Iranian Cheetah reduced to just about 100 and the African Cheetah is estimated at 10,000. The food habits of the Asiatic Cheetah and African Cheetah are different mainly because of their geographical habitat.
Asiatic cheetahs feed on wild sheep, antelopes, cape hares, and other medium-sized herbivores, whereas its African cousin has a diversified diet option of over 25 species of herbivores.
10. Asiatic Cheetah Population –
Asiatic Cheetah used to inhabit the Indian subcontinent, Middle East and Russia. The Asiatic Cheetah Project estimates that there are only about 12 of these cheetah genetics roaming in the open.
The current situation shows the Iranian cheetahs in the endangered species category. The Iranian Cheetah Society is trying to increase the population of this Acinonyx Jubatus Venaticus by protecting and monitoring this subspecies through camera traps.
International awareness has been raised on cheetah conservation, and the Cheetah Conservation Fund has been raised to stop this genetically distinct cheetah population from becoming extinct.
Projects to protect the wild Asiatic Cheetah
The herders of the mountainous regions of Iran generally confuse the Cheetah with other carnivorous animals and attack and kill them. An awareness program was launched to educate them to identify this big cat.
The building of border fences is encouraged around the crucial point where livestock is bred to prevent the cheetahs from being attacked. The youth are trained on cheetah conservation and asked to teach the locals the disadvantages of the extinction of the cheetahs.
Captive breeding programs have also been implemented to increase the cheetah population in Asia.
Reinstating the Wild Asiatic Cheetah population in India
From ancient history, the Asiatic Cheetah has been found in India. It is believed that the Asiatic cheetahs once roamed around the arid environments of the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia, Pakistan, India, and Iran. Studies show that uncontrolled hunting has led to the extinction of this big cat since the 1940s.
It is found that the Asiatic Cheetah is the only animal to have become extinct in India in the past 100 years and has become a threatened species now.
The Indian government is trying to bring back at least 50 cheetahs under the Cheetah Conservation Fund in the next five years.
Large attempts were made for cheetah reintroduction from Africa and Iran. Still, studies show that this cheetah genome combination could fail as the African cheetahs and Asiatic cheetahs separated thousands of years ago.
The government of India is working on bringing the wild Asiatic cheetahs back to their home by developing cheetah habitat and the Indian antelope among its many prey species in many states of Central India and Western India.
Hopefully, India will soon have this African cousin.
And why just India, if we as humans try our best to conserve a species, it can gradually be found all over the world.
Let’s put in our best efforts!!
I hope you enjoyed reading this article on Asiatic Cheetahs.
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