KARWAR: Even as a national campaign to reintroduce cheetah into the wild in India’s forests is on in full swing amid much opposition from experts, evidence points to the fact that the world’s fastest cat once roamed the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Documents reveal that the feline was sighted, adopted as pet and poached for its skin, before the last one was shot dead in 1952. The landscape of Karnataka has been home to the cat. A picture of two cheetah cubs playing with a dog is being circulated in Karnataka.
“It is said to be a picture from Dharwad. It has been sent by another officer, a friend of mine,” said B J Hosmath, former PCCF and Chief Wildlife Warden. The photograph caption reads, “The now extinct Indian Cheetah (declared officially extinct in 1952) cubs photographed by G S Rodon at Dharwad in 1897/published in the journal of Bombay Natural History Society (1897). The picture is now doing the rounds on social media.
To support this further, a journal - Mammals of Coimbatore - mentions the presence of cheetah in Satyamangalam tiger reserve at Kottamangalam.
Cheetahs disappeared from India in 1952
An extract from the mannual says, “This animal is sparsely distributed over a small portion of Vellamunda and Kottamangalam.” “The Kottamangalam and Vellamunda form the landscape of Sathyamangalam,” informed Hosmath. The text also mentions Colonel Davies, a British officer who happened to find the pelt of ‘Felis jubata’ (scientific name for cheetah).
“He saw five good skins of Felis jubata among the pelts of leopard, tiger and other animals. They had come from Kothamangalam.” The journal also mentions another Britisher, Wedderburn, who also said that he has seen the skins of ‘this hunting leopard’ (cheetah) - called so in Cutcherry and one is in his possession - which he ‘got’ from Bolampatti. Sathyamangalam was part of erstwhile Mysuru Princely state. The cheetah went extinct in 1952 after the last one was shot dead in Madhya Pradesh.