Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The Ghost In The Mist

15-6-13 , 5 am.Time to go to the mountains.Bruce Lee(my car, a seasoned campaigner), and I soon reached the foothills of Ponmudi (a beautiful ecologically fragile mountain near Trivandrum).
The weather was deceptively fine.We stopped at our favourite shed for snacks before venturing to negotiate the hairpin bends ..

Mountain weather can be tricky.In a jiffy,the sky darkened,the forest became dark and gloomy,and down came the drizzle.I was glad.We were going to have yet another day of fun for sure.By the time we reached Merchiston,the skies opened up yet again and the rain came down with high winds.We were soon in to the mist which was thicker than ever and almost completely obliterated the road.

So thick was it that even the road appeared hypnotizingly unreal.The trees and bushes turned in to eerie apparitions, harbingers of doom,fixing us with a malevolent stare.It was easy to imagine we were in a ghostly world,everything looked unreal.But Bruce lee held his nerve and took me safely to the very top.And there the Mist became impenetrable,strengthening it's vice-like grip with frequent showers ,making the road slippery,it's glistening surface,it's unreal sheen, merging into the general haze.

And then I saw it,a ghost,right in the middle of the road!

walking towards me or away from me I couldn't tell.Nor could I say if it was man or woman.On either side of the by now imaginary road,spectral figures watched me with hungry eyes.
And then as if by magic,the rain stopped,the mist vanished and Ponmudi,the dancing maiden,appeared before me in all her resplendent hues!!
I laughed at myself ,how she had fooled me,scared me out of my wits like a mischievous damsel!,concealing all her ethereal charm behind a fearsome countenance!!
And then the vision vanished ,and the mischievous maiden was up to her tricks yet again. Dense mist enshrouded everything and as I walked through it's thick veil,I received a real drenching.

                                          But I was really enchanted by the sheer beauty of nature and I had no intention of going away until I had enjoyed the heavenly bliss one gets only in such places..  



Eventually the sad moment arrived.It was time to return. Along the way as the mist thinned,I saw a board.


This board was a death warrant. It portends the end ,or rather, the beginning of the end.Where there is a heroine,there is bound to be a villain,to rape and murder her,after pouring acid on her face.

Ponmudi ,Oh! lovely heroine of my dreams,thy end is near.Thy beauty has proved thy undoing.As the sunny day brings forth the adder,so your incomparable beauty and charm has attracted evil eyes.
For Ponmudi,the death bells are ringing.This board heralds the entry of the villain.Will there be a hero to fight for her?To tear this board down and raze to the ground the evil forces behind it?
Only time will tell.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Indian Cheetah,the Prince vanquished.

The Most Unkindest Cut Of All -PART II  

THE INDIAN CHEETAH,the Prince Vanquished ..

 Mass capture and domestication as well as ruthless hunting exterminated the Indian Cheetah,but seven decades after it left the scene,the Prince of the Indian Grasslands must return, to fight one last battle, to save his reputation,from people who have no intention of sparing him even after his extinction.

The Indian Cheetah,Exotic Alien or Indigenous Icon?
 Recently I happened to read Sanctuary Magazine Vol xxxiii in which Bittu Sahgal has glorified a book called ''Exotic Aliens''by Mr.Valmik Thapar,with the help of Romila Thapar and Yusuf Ansari,in wnich the Gir Lion and the Indian Cheetah are described as exotic aliens, imported by ancient Indian Maharajas.Since this seemed improbable,I studied their arguments and the data on which those arguments were based and found that both were inconclusive,incomplete,and irrational.
Who should we believe? There are people who claim that the Indian and the African cheetah are the same and the so-called Indian cheetah was just the African cheetah pirated out of that country by Indian Maharajas.And there are guys who went to the Honorable Supreme court of India and argued that the Indian and African cheetahs are entirely different and the latter should not be introduced in place of the former.Stephen O'Brien says the Indian and African cheetahs separated only 5000 years back and that is too short a period for developing genetic variations.Another study tends to indicate that genetically,Indian and African cheetahs are very different and they must have separated about 30000 to 40000 years ago.We can never be sure.Then there are the Thapars and the Bittus who are sure that the Indian cheetah was an Exotic Alien and that is what we are analyzing here.
The fact that skeletons very similar to that of the modern day cheetah have been found in the Shiwaliks tends to suggest that the cheetah may not be as alien to India as we might be led to think. Anyway the word cheetah most certainly originated in India and not Africa or any other part of the globe,indicating that the cheetah was a familiar animal in India for a long long time.Stephen O'Brien believes the cheetahs from Africa and India separated about 5000 years ago.A more exhaustive study conducted later tends to indicate that the cheetahs of India and Africa parted ways nearly 30000 to 40000 years back.Even taking Stephen O'Brien's words,Valmik Thapar seems to be wrong since Indian Maharajas were not around 5000 years ago to do cheetah-trafficking from Africa.
In Part 1 of this article,I have pointed out the unscientific approach the authors have used,the lack of depth and discretion in data collection,and the lack of precision in analyzing the data and the inevitable result,a grossly erroneous conclusion with regard to the Gir lion.
In this section viz,Part 11,we shall analyze their view of the Indian cheetah and see if this species was Indigenous ,or Exotic as they have concluded..Even the excerpts given in Sanctuary magazine vol 33 from that book 'Exotic Aliens' is full of contradictions and errors which we shall put under the microscope one by one,line by line.

On page 24,Sanctuary magazine,vol-33 ,there is an excerpt from Thapar's book which says''India's terrain and environment was highly unsuitable for the cheetah-from the uneven ground of our grasslands that would have been problematic for them to run on....''
This is  ridiculous...Indian grasslands like Tal Chapar are essentially identical to the African savannah except that the latter is infinitely more extensive.The roughness of the ground is same in both places.African grasslands appear very smooth only from a distance.Up close,both Indian and African grasslands have similar surfaces.
1) This distant view of an African grassland gives the illusion of perfect smoothness,like green velvet.
2) But when seen from close up,we can see that the surface of this African grassland is not as velvety as it looks from a bird's eye view.
3) This distant view of an Indian grassland also gives the illusion of smoothness.

The cheetah's legs are strong and powerful with strong footpads and non-retractile claws well-suited to high-speed sprinting over rough ground.In fact the cheetah attains full speed only on rough ground where it's specially designed legs give it excellent purchase.
.The following pictures show the cheetah in full persuit of a Thomson's gazzle over rough ground on an African grassland.
Cheetah chasing Thomson's gazelle over rough terrain in Africa

Indian Grassland,with Black Buck.
 Indian grasslands are certainly not as rough as the African terrain shown here which the cheetah is negotiating at full throttle.
 If the cheetah has no problem negotiating the relatively rough African terrain shown here,it is illogical to say that the cheetah can not run on the Indian grasslands shown here on the above  picture and therefore Mr.Thapar's claim is not sustainable.
When we say that the cheetah is ''weak and fragile '',we do not mean it's legs are weak.We should not forget that these adjectives refer to the species's ecological vulnerability and light frame,and also it's temperamental nature and  vulnerability to stress.They do not refer to the animal's sprinting abilities which no one should underestimate.We should not assume that the cheetah can only run on specially prepared race-courses like Usain Bolt.!On a smooth race course a cheetah rarely attempts it's full speed.
As we can see in the following pictures,the cheetah varies it's running style,depending on the terrain, galloping over smooth ground and leaping over rough ground.
A cheetah galloping over an even  surface
a cheetah leaping over uneven ground

The similarity between African and Indian grasslands can be gauged from these photographs.
African grassland  with Gazelle
Indian grassland,Black Buck
Anyway,the Mughal emperors would not have kept all those cheetahs and used them for hunting black buck if the terrain was too 'problematic' for them to run on. 
 The picture below shows a cheetah chasing a Thompson's gazelle at full speed on an African grassland.

And the following pictures show a cheetah chasing a black buck at full throttle on an INDIAN grassland.

 The cheetah was able to run down the black buck on Indian terrain even though the antelope is faster than any African species.We can see that the cheetah has no problem sprinting over Indian grasslands,contrary to what Mr.Thapar claims.
  Contrary to Mr.Thapar's claim,the cheetah had absolutely no problem running on Indian terrain. As we can see Mr.Thapar's argument that ''our grasslands are uneven and would have been problematic for them (cheetahs) to run on',' is baseless and absurd, as the above pictures show.

                                                                  ERROR No 2

On page 24 Sanctuary Magazine vol 33,page 24(same line as above) Mr.Thapar continues..''the hostile environment of wolves,hyenas,tigers,and leopards would have made the life of this fragile predator a living hell had it existed in sufficient numbers as an indigenous species.''
This statement of Mr.Thapar is so ridiculously absurd that it is hard to believe that it is unintentional.None of these predators mentioned by Thapar will ever be a threat to the cheetah in India.
1)TIGERS never occur in cheetah habitat.Therefore they can not make the cheetah's life a ''living''hell!''(unless they board a train and go to cheetah habitat).                 ..

2)INDIAN WOLF --Itself an endangered species,the Indian wolf is rarely even seen.How can such a rare creature make the cheetah's life a living hell?The Indian wolf is much smaller than the grey wolf and rarely gathers in  packs large enough to prove a menace to cheetahs.They live in pairs and usually hunt singly or in pairs or small groups.
In a showdown with this animal,it is more than likely that the cheetah will dominate. Anyway,it is unlikely that this creature will drive the cheetah to extinction,something packs of African hyenas,prides of African lions,packs of African wild dogs,the Ethiopian wolf,and the African leopard combined, failed to achieve and as usual,Mr.Thapar is wide off the mark yet again.The Iranian cheetah is identical to the extinct Indian cheetah and the Iranian wolf is similar to the Indian wolf.And the two species co-exist proving that Thapar's fear that the Indian wolf will make the cheetah's life a living hell is baseless.Dunbar Brander says the black buck evolved their phenomenal speed to escape from the hunting leopard (cheetah) and their endurance,to escape from the more persistent and tireless wolf,indicating that during those days,the Indian cheetah and the Indian wolf existed side by side and both preyed on black buck,the extinction of cheetah being due to other factors which shall be considered in detail later in this article.

3) LEOPARDS are already sharing the same terrain as cheetahs,in Africa.Therefore,Thapar's claim that the leopard will make the cheetah's life ''a living hell'' in India is rather amusing considering that the two species have co-existed for millennia and neither has driven the other to extinction.
A Leopard (left)confronts a cheetah(right)

The cheetah fights back.
The cheetah's superior speed will enable it to escape from a leopard when push comes to shove..Although the dominant predator,there is little danger of the leopard driving the cheetah to extinction,or else,this would have happened long ago in Africa where they have co-existed over several millennia,.Such inter-species rivalry is essential for ensuring natural selection and survival of the fittest.Mr.Thapar's claim that the leopard will make the cheetah's life a living hell is baseless. 

4)INDIAN HYENA--1 species
striped hyena.(same as African striped hyena)

And for the information of all readers,it might be noted that the Indian striped hyena is a cowardly,inoffensive carrion-eater which can be driven off even by a determined village dog. As Rudyard Kipling says''..they(striped hyenas) know that the dead are safer meat than the weakest thing alive''.Occasionally striped hyenas do attack sheep,dogs and even small children,but even at their worst,they do not even remotely compare with the ferocious pack hunter,the African Spotted Hyena,with which cheetahs have co-existed for eons.
In India ,only one species of hyena exists--the striped hyena,In Africa,the cheetah co-exists with  4 species of hyena including the striped hyena.
African Hyenas---1)Striped hyena, 2)spotted hyena 3)Brown hyena 4)Ardwolf.
                                                          African Hyenas--(4 Species)

2)African Brown Hyena

3)African Spotted Hyena

4) African Striped Hyena (same as Indian Hyena)
If the cheetah can co-exist with all 4 species of hyena in Africa for several millennia, on what basis is Mr.Thapar screaming that the Striped hyena will make the cheetah's life a living hell in India alone?
.The African spotted hyena,unlike other hyenas,gathers in enormous packs and readily attacks and kills even lions when they have the strength of numbers.Yet the cheetah lives alongside them in Africa.
African Spotted hyenas attacking a lioness.


African Spotted hyenas
Nomadic African lions

African  Wild Dogs (Cape hunting dogs)
Pride of lionesses

A pride of lions,nomadic wandering lions,a pack of spotted hyenas,a pack of cape hunting dogs(African wild dogs)---these are top contenders for the title of the world's most dangerous animals in nature.Yet the cheetah occurs alongside them.Every year,these enemies make the cheetah's life ''a living hell'' in Africa,(not India,where none of them occur) by stealing 80 percent of their food(kills),killing scores of adult cheetahs,and killing 90 percent of cheetah cubs.Yet the cheetah continues to exist in this'' living hell'' called Africa.
A cheetah killed by African lioness
African lion killing a cheetah
cheetah being chased by African spotted hyena
The above pictures speak for themselves. Which is the real living hell---Africa or India?
Africa is a land of ferocious pack hunters--lions,spotted hyenas and wild dogs-- against whom a cheetah stands little chance.India on the other hand is a land of solitary hunters,the sole exception being the dhole or Indian wild dog.But this animal rarely occurs in cheetah habitat and therefore is unlikely to make the  cheetah's life a living hell.

Dhole or Indian Wild Dog,


 On page 26,Sanctuary magazine vol 33,there is a line'',Kenya was one of the greatest suppliers of cheetahs to India.The evidence of this is endless in the 20th century,and therefore must have occurred in earlier times as well when groups of cheetahs were caught and shipped to India.''
    The term ''therefore must have occurred'' indicates mere guess work .Yet Thapar is speaking as if he had been eye witness to all this cheetah trafficking. If we are to accept guesswork as fact,all our scientific concepts will have to be re-written.The term ''therefore must have'' has no place in science no matter from who it comes. History cannot be re-written according to our whims and fancies.In science we have a responsibility to prove every word of what we say.If we cannot do that,we should refrain from such emphatic statements based on guesswork. 
Once again Thapar has shown his tendency to judge the past by extrapolating the present.He has overlooked the fact  that 20th century was drastically different from preceding centuries.During the 20th century,India was well and truly under British rule unlike the previous centuries ,particularly the period before the battle of Plassey in 1757,(when Robert Clive defeated Siraj-ud-daula,the Nawab of Bengal) .
The British period was different from preceding centuries in that the sea ceased to be a barrier and ships sailed regularly between continents and countries.
 It might have been possible during this period to import a few cheetahs from Africa,especially since the native Indian Cheetahs were already rare and heading towards extinction.But before the British period,this would not have been possible without the risk of high mortality among the cheetahs,both during capture as well as during transport to India.For every cheetah that reached India alive,several more would have died during capture and transit and the African cheetah would have become extinct long ago!If the hundreds or thousands of African cheetahs which Thapar claims were imported in to India,thousands more would have died and it is inconceivable that the species could have escaped extinction in their native haunts.As it transpired extinction of the cheetah occured in India and not Africa,clearly indicating from where the cheetahs were captured.
.Such massive capture and shipment of cheetahs WAS not possible then,and it IS not possible now either,as Thapar himself knows.
 On page 27,Sanctuary magazine vol 33,Mr Thapar says,''..all the cheetahs that are so very fragile in nature will perish in the course of these experiments.'',!!!
If ALL the cheetahs will perish in these days of tranquiliser guns,air transport,and excellent veterinary science,on what basis can we believe that the import of thousands of cheetahs ''therefore must have''occurred in earlier times when none of these aids were available?It defies logic.Of course we can solve the issue by declaring that the cheetahs in those days ''therefore must have''been less fragile than the cheetahs of today!!.May be the cheetahs were a hardy species  in yesteryears but later on developed a higher fragility index! Should we alter the cheetah's  fragility according to our whims and fancies?
Mere import of a few specimens as gift or as exibits should not be magnified in to astronomical proportions.Even a few years back a couple of African cheetahs were imported in to Trivandrum,,and I have little doubt that such things ''therefore must have occurred'' in the past too.Incidentally these two cheetahs lived in the Trivandrum Zoo for several months and then died.
Last,but not least,we must take in to account the fact that prior to the days of the British Empire, travel between different geographical regions,whether for cheetah-trafficking or lion-trafficking,was fraught with danger.There was no international law in place or for that matter, any law except that of the sword and spear.Thapar's team of Cheetah trappers dispatched from India would have been waylaid and destroyed and their Cheetah-cargo seized long before they could reach their destination.,for to reach Africa by land,they would have had to cover thousands of kilometres of hostile territory,passing through present-day Pakistan,Afghanistan,Iran,Egypt etc. I don't think any self- respecting ruler or tribe of that period would have allowed trespassers to violate their territory in the guise of cheetah-catchers or otherwise.Nor do I believe anyone would risk their necks in those dangerous times by trekking thousands of kilometres through hostile territory to catch cheetahs from an alien land.
Here again ,Thapar's obscession with his ''Exotic Alien "theory has tempted him to ignore the far more obvious possibility that most of  the cheetahs which roamed India on leashes were more probably Indian cheetahs captured  in India itself. Instead he has focused on the few specimens brought in from Africa as the native specimens neared extinction.

                                                               ERROR No 4

On page 27,Sanctuary Magazine vol 33,Mr.Thapar says,''Cheetahs roamed across India on leashes,..and in their thousands...many escaped during their training and on sports hunts..some lions also escaped ...these escapees formed small feral populations..''
  The first line,''cheetahs roamed across India on leashes'', is right. But this does not prove they did not exist in the wild.
But as for forming feral populations,neither the lion nor the cheetah can ever do that.
 The lion is an apex predator and if it forms a feral population,people will soon destroy it with poisons or traps,since otherwise, their lives will be imperilled.And that is exactly what happened to the African lions which the Gwalior king (on the advice of Lord Curzon) released in to his jungles.The lions roamed the country side killing livestock and even people and were soon killed.
There is no question of the cheetah forming a feral population.If that was possible cheetahs would have soon become a pest!!Formation of feral populations is possible only with hardy ,adaptable species with a high reproductive rate and low mortality rate.The cheetah is highly niche-specific,highly territorial, has a low reproductive rate and an even lower survival rate. In fact only one out of every ten cheetah cubs survive to adulthood even at the best of times.So high is their mortality rate.
The domestic cat,domestic dog,domestic buffalo,the domestic pig etc are all capable of forming feral populations.Even the spotted deer,and the black buck,the rabbit,the pigeon,etc can form feral populations,but certainly not the cheetah.The'' feral population'' theory is probably Thapar's ingenious 'explanation' for the presence of wild cheetahs in India which he just cannot accept.!!
If the cheetahs were capable of forming feral populations,they would not be facing extinction. Instead ,they would have become pests by now!!!
feral dogs

feral pigs
feral camels in Australia.

        feral cat

Feral rabbits


On page 23,sanctuary magazine,vol 33,Mr.Bittu says..'' triggered by curiosity about why there was comparatively so little literature about wild lions and cheetahs in the mountain of books published down the years,Thapar roped in two history experts to examine the antecedents of these two charismatic predators''..
Mr Thapar as well as Mr.Bittu Sahgal have overlooked the fact that this ''mountain of books''was almost entirely writtenbyBritish authors---Rice,Shakespeare,Burton,Campbell,Hawkeye,Forsyth,Sterndale,Sanderson,Blanford,Lydekkar,Blyth,Jerdon,etc.
.By the time these books were written the wild cheetah population had already reached the verge of extinction, after the extensive trapping and domestication by the Mughal rulers and their proteges.The cheetah was not only rare,but also did not offer much ''sport''.While the Mughals were interested in the cheetah exclusively because of it's hunting prowess,the British were interested only in how much an animal fought for it's life before being killed by the ''sportsman'' '(the British term for butcher). Tigers were at the top of ''sports ''(British term for killing wild life) because as ambush predators they always provided great entertainment ,launching surprise attacks and fighting ferociously before being ''rolled over'' with a' shot to the heart or the brain'. 
.Cheetahs on the other hand inhabited open plains,put up little fight when hunted and were easily shot with fire-arms or speared from horseback ,neither method of killing offering any entertainment.Although cheetahs were excellent sprinters,they had little stamina and were easily run down by horses..All these made the cheetah a poor ''game-animal''and big game hunters infinitely preferred pig-sticking to cheetah-spearing.Although a great hunter,the cheetah was very poor as a hunted animal.Therefore ,unlike the Mughals who adored the cheetah,the British treated it with contempt and did not even consider it worth writing about.As and when the British went to the plains,it was to hunt black buck and not cheetahs which they did not even consider worthy of being hunted.Therefore ,in these'' mountain of books''written by British writers or rather hunters,one will not find references to the cheetah or at the most a few contemptuous lines.
.Dunbar Brander,one of the most respected of these British authors of the mid 19th and early 20th centuries echoes the contemptuous attitude of the British towards cheetahs---''although they (black buck) can be stalked and rushed over a short distance by a hunting leopard (cheetah),they soon draw away and the leopard (cheetah) abandons the chase. The value of a flying start is well known in racing,and to what extent this advantage serves the cheetah or hunting leopard I can not say,but the ease with which this animal (cheetah) can be run down and speared (from horse back) shows that even given his ability to out-pace the black-buck for a very limited distance,this doesn't entitle him to pride of place regarding fleetness.''
Note that Dunbar Brander, one of the most authentic of these British authors, has scant respect for the cheetah, and he does not even consider him worthy of being called 'fastest animal'.
About the caracal, Dunbar Brander says--''They stand high on the leg..thus reminding one of the gait of the hunting leopard.''
Note that he repeatedly refers to the cheetah as ''hunting leopard''.If one of the most knowledgeable persons of his period should use this confusing nomenclature,how can one find the word '' cheetah ''in the mountain of books of British hunter-authors many of whom were absolutely unreliable?( In fact ,one of them wrote that he had killed an enormous tiger which measured 24 feet in length!!)These British hunters were always vying with each other over the size of the animals they shot,And who would give them credit for shooting a  6 foot cheetah weighing about as much as a dog when great hunters were roaming around shooting  24--foot tigers?Small wonder cheetah is missing from their books!
Valmik Thapar,as well as Mr.Bittu has overlooked the fact that the ''mountain of books'' they studied were written by British Hunters calling themselves sportsmen,and they had little interest in a poor ''sport''like cheetah-killing either with guns or with spears from horse back.The sole and glorious exception to this was F.W.CHAMPION,a man who was 100 years ahead of his time, a great soul who loved the living animal in it's natural habitat,but unfortunately,he wrote about Landsdowne division where cheetahs did not occur.
 This British neglect of an animal which was not only rare,but also considered by them to be weak and poor as a game animal,does not mean the cheetah is an exotic alien.Had shiploads of cheetahs and lions arrived from Kenya,there is little doubt that atleast one of these British hunter-authors would have seen the spectacle and mentioned it in his book.
About the cheetah's disappearance,Dunbar Brander says,''....the hunting leopard has now almost entirely disappeared from the province without reason,and I only know of 3 animals having been procured in the last 20 years....In territories outside the province,especially to the north,they are commoner. Rumours of their existence in parts of Berar ,the Seoni plateau,and  Saugar still persist,and it is possible that one or two may still persist''.
These lines of Dunbar Brander,the most reliable of the British hunter-writers, indicates that the cheetah was hovering on the verge of extinction even at the dawn of the 20th century with the few available individuals scattered far and wide over a vast area making it hard for them to even find a mate.Let us look at the factors that could have led to the native Indian cheetah's extinction.

The Indian rulers of the pre-British period,especially the Mughals, captured and trained large numbers of cheetahs for hunting black buck.This barbaric royal past-time resulted in serious or near total depletion of the wild cheetah population ,ultimately bringing the cheetah to the verge of extinction.Cheetahs rarely if ever breed in captivity and were entirely dependant on a viable wild population to sustain the species.Since captured and reared cheetahs did not reproduce, more and more wild cheetahs had to be captured to sustain this barbaric sport thereby further depleting the wild population and bringing it to the verge of extinction.
At the turn of the century (20th) Dunbar Brander wrote'''the number of cheetah now found in the province is a negligible quantity....''It is a miracle that the species somehow survived up to 1946,when the last 3 recorded specimens were shot dead by an insane Maharajah,who also shot over 1300 tigers.

Indian Maharajas and Sultans, barring a few exceptions,always respected nature and rarely can any ecological disaster be attributed to them.They did go to the forest to hunt but rarely led to any animal extinctions,for they (with a few insane exceptions) never killed beyond a limit. Nor did they adopt the doctrine that the entire planet belonged to humans.They always left the forest to the wild animals.That could be the reason for the cheetah surviving in spite of all that capture and domestication by Indian Royalty.The wild cheetah's had enough habitat and black buck to sustain them
.Large scale conversion of forests and grasslands in to plantations and agricultural lands occurred only during the British Raj leading to the cheetah habitats suffering near total annihilation.Being  predominantly  a diurnal hunter ,the cheetah can not survive in cultivated lands.  It's mode of sprint-hunting would lead to immediate detection by village dogs and people unlike the ambush-hunters like leopard or even the tiger which can hide in available cover during daytime and raid livestock at night.

3)DECLINE OF THE BLACK BUCK (loss of prey base)Due to British Hunters
As Dunbar Brander says,''In Africa,the cheetah's attention is divided between different prey species,but in India,this is concentrated almost entirely on the black buck,or the chinkara an animal possessing almost an equal fleetness.''
The fate of the Indian cheetah therefore was intimately linked to that of the black buck.

The decline in black buck population due to brutal,indiscriminate,wanton killing by the British indirectly led to the extinction of the cheetah.The cheetah was greatly dependant on black buck,the only herbivore in the grasslands of India small enough to be caught and large enough to feed the cheetah and it's cubs.The Indian Gazelle called ''chinkara''was not only too small for a cheetah with cubs,but also harder to catch due to it's habit of avoiding entirely open spaces where it could be run down by cheetahs or wolves.As Dunbar Grander points out','the chinkara is second only to the black buck in speed and unlike the black buck,it is seldom found in country which does not offer it a distinct advantage''.
Black buck are so fast that the cheetah's success rate with it was much less than with the far slower African antelopes like the Thomson's gazelle.As the black bucks became rarer and rarer cheetahs were forced to scatter widely to guard against starvation,reducing their chances of successful mating and reproduction.Many a cheetah cub must have died of starvation or fallen prey to predators as their mothers were forced to go far away in search of black buck,leaving them unguarded and vulnerable for long hours.
Before the advent of the British herds of black buck numbering several hundreds were commonly seen in the Northwest.
The havoc wreaked upon black buck by the British is clearly recorded by Dunbar Brander.
''The chief enemy black buck have to content with is man,and with the advent of modern rifles of precision their numbers have been greatly reduced.Buck along a railway track get rapidly shot out by officials travelling up and down in trolleys.''.Brander writes''..out of the thousands of heads (black buck heads) procured every year in India...''
''In addition,very large numbers of both sexes were shot during the war (?first world war) to provide leather jackets for seamen.
And he also wrote''Any place accessible to a British garrison is liable to follow the same fate'
Dunbar Brander himself was a ruthless hunter and if he should condemn the British massacre of Indian wildlife,one can imagine the magnitude of killing involved.
As likely as not decline of the black buck must have been a predominant factor which led to the extinction of the Indian cheetah.As prey became rarer and rarer,the cheetahs were forced to scatter widely and this isolated them from each other reducing chances of courtship,mating and reproduction. As and when they did produce cubs,these were done in by lack of food ,hastening extinction.
In those areas where black buck were still available,competition for territory must have eliminated most of the remaining cheetahs.Unlike lions cheetahs do not live in prides,and no matter how good an area is ,it still can only hold only a few specimens since cheetahs are territorial and won't tolerate rivals.(The only 'groups of cheetahs' seen are invariably mothers with well-grown cubs or siblings yet to separate).
Loss of habitat and loss of prey base must therefore have played key roles in the disappearance of the Indian cheetah.
 If the cheetah could adapt and form feral populations it would have thrived instead of disappearing.
4)Killing of Wild Cheetahs By British
During the British Raj cheetahs were killed by spearing from horseback as well as by shooting.Although neither method provided'' thrill' both hastened the extermination of the already rare animal.
                                                             ERROR NO 6

On page 26 Sanctuary Magazine vol .33,Mr.Thapar says'',To collect information and then have a very logical and compelling argument that reflects the alien nature of lions and cheetahs in India has been my focus.''

Coming to the topic of'' ''ALIEN NATURE,'' let us take 3 cases--the lion and cheetah in India,and the true Exotic Alien--the Bengal tiger in South Africa.Let us see which animals are occurring in alien habitat.with alien prey species,and alien life style.
GIR LION,''Alien Nature''.
 The lion is an animal of open plains,with a minimum of forest cover over vast areas of it's range with a few exceptions.The Barbary lion presumed to be extinct ,lived in a cold temperate climate.The Okavango lions live in the semi-aquatic Okavango delta.The Tsavo lions live in desert-conditions.
But generally the lions live in relatively dry areas.with minimal forest cover and just enough water.In such conditions,their uniform sandy brown or tawny color gives them excellent camouflage.It also favours their style of collective ambush hunting.It can be seen that the Gir Forest is indeed true lion habitat.The jungle is relatively dry, but not a desert.The cover is dense enough to camouflage and hide the lions,but not so dense as to impede it's co-operative ambush style of hunting.Hence it can be seen that the Gir lion is living in true lion habitat and  that there is nothing alien about the Gir lion, habitat-wise.
 As for prey,lions generally hunt medium to large-sized prey depending on pride size.In the Gir forest ,such prey are available--Nilgai,Spotted deer,wild boar etc and the Maldhari's stray cattle in addition.By living in smaller prides the Gir lion has adapted to the smaller prey compared to African lions.
Hence,the lions of Gir are living in true lion habitat with prey similar to what African lions hunt.On what basis can we call this ''alien nature?''
If the Gir lions lived in the dense tropical evergreen jungles of the Western Ghats,or in the marshes and mangroves of the Sunderbans,or on the Snowy wastes of  Mount Everest,we could have described them as being of alien nature!!
 We can clearly see that the Gir lion is living in ideal lion habitat,and preying on ideal prey species.Therefore Mr.Thapar's accusation that they are of alien nature is unjustified.

African lioness in typical lion habitat

Gir lions in Ideal lion habitat.

Indian Cheetah,Alien Nature ?
The cheetah is an animal of open plains and grasslands with plenty of antelope and\or gazelle which it can run down and catch for food.This is the kind of habitat in which the African cheetah lives,and this was the habitat in which the Indian cheetah lived before it died out.The African cheetah lives in African grass lands,preying on Thompson's gazelle while the Indian cheetah lived on Indian grasslands preying on black buck.Both species lived in the ecological niche it was designed for..I don't understand why we should single out the Indian cheetah as being of ''alien nature''just to support a theory we cherish.
Unfortunately unlike the Gir Lion,,the Indian cheetah is not with us today to settle  the question once and for ever.
Anyway,from what we can gather,it looks as if the Indian cheetah lived in typical cheetah habitat hunting typical cheetah prey,the fleet-footed antelope and gazelle.I don't believe the Indian cheetah lived in the snowline of Karakorum or Mt.Everest,and preyed on Bharal or Ibex and goral!!!to be called  alien in nature. Nor do I think it lived in the swampy morasses of Sunderbans and took to man-eating!!And I wouldn't ,in my widest dream picture the Indian cheetah as having lived in the tropical evergreen forests of the Western Ghats or Assam,preying on elephants,gaur,and rhinos.As long as the cheetah lived in grasslands and preyed on antelope and gazelle,I wouldn't for the life of me call him alien,for all the gold in the world (for I am answerable to my own innermost self)

Cheetah chasing black buck on Indian grassland
.cheetah chasing Thompson's gazelle on African grassland.

The Gir lion lives in lion habitat and hunts the largest prey available,The India cheetah used to live in the Indian plains and grasslands,chasing and preying on Black buck.Where else do you want the lion and cheetah to live? Both species lived in their perfect ecological niches.Should we call them''of alien  nature ''simply to justify somebody's daydream?

The alien nature of the tiger in Africa  .
There is an ongoing project in South Africa,which envisages introducing the ''Bengal'' Tiger in to the South African bush.The project has been underway for sometime now .The introduced tigers are molly-coddled,hand-fed, even assisted with catching prey, and breeding and rearing cubs.The idea is to ensure the existence of the tiger as a wild species in the next few generations,to add to Africa's collection of Big Cats.Even though the guys who are doing this claim that they are doing this to save the ''Bengal tiger'' from extinction by ensuring a second home for the species,it is doubtful if these are really Bengal tigers.The animals introduced in to South Africa are bigger, more hairy and less brightly colored than Bengal tigers,but smaller than true Siberian tigers.I think it has been established that these Exotic Aliens are in fact Bengal-Siberian hybrids!!This clearly establishes the true motive behind this tiger-introduction programme.
 The tiger is an animal of forests with abundant water and deer on which to prey.In Africa such places do occur,but these are inhabited by chimpanzees,bonobos and gorillas.Put in to such forests the tiger would prove to be a menace to these rare African species.The present tiger-introduction project in South Africa is being implemented in an area where there is insufficient cover in which to even lie up during the hot hours,insufficient water to cool off,and totally unsuitable prey.Being a solitary ambush hunter,the tiger relies on camouflage to creep up to it's prey before launching a final lightening assault.The tiger's red and black coloration makes him conspicuous in the African landscape,and his approach would be detected by prey long before he got anywhere near. As such the tiger would have to launch his final attack from considerably farther than his Indian counterparts,and then indulge in an energy sapping top=speed gallop to overtake his prey and bring it down.In a TV programme,I saw a pair of tigers galloping after blesbok in a futile bid to catch one.The person who was narrating was heard saying'',Oh! What a sight!Tigers sprinting across the savannah like cheetahs!''.Ofcourse he then shows tigers pulling down blesbok,wild beast etc as proof of the tiger's successful hunting in Africa!The wild beast and the blesbok had no chance,whatsoever,for looking at that video closely ,it is not difficult to see that the animals were being driven towards the tigers!
The tiger is not designed for sprinting like cheetahs,his heavy build would slow him down, and his  foot pads are soft and would be easily ripped by sharp stones or thorns.The absence of non-retractile claws would make rapid twists and turns impossible and risky.
 The above picture shows an introduced tiger in Africa galloping after blesbok.Note how conspicuous the tiger's coloration is in this African landscape.Also note the casual way in which the antelope are running,fully aware of their ability to outrun the Exotic Alien chasing them.
The cheetah on the other hand is far lighter,has harder ,keratinized foot pads like a dog,and has non-retractile claws as well ,to facilitate rapid change of direction without the danger of slipping and breaking a leg.The prey available in Africa are extremely unsuitable for tiger.The deer are the tiger's main prey.There is not a single species of indigenous deer in South Africa.In South Africa,the blesbok,wild beast,zebra,cape buffalo etc,are all excellent lion-prey ,but not tiger-prey.Excepting the dikdik, most African antelope inhabit the open plains where they can see the approach of an enemy with several pairs of eyes long before he gets anywhere near.And they are all fleet-footed and  can keep up their speed for a long long time ,unlike the tiger which can maintain top speed for just a minute or two at the most,usually even less.The lion manages to catch these prey only because of his co-operative hunting with several lions hiding and one driving prey in their direction.Zebras too are fleet-footed and come in herds in the open plains and present the same problem as antelope.Zebras ,kudus and elands are not only fast, but also capable of injuring a solitary predator like a tiger.A cape buffalo is an even more formidable threat and a solitary hunter like the  tiger would stand a real chance of being gored to shreds if he confronts an organized herd.The tiger might succeed in catching warthogs provided he ventures in to the open plains.But if he does so he will be attacked by packs of hyenas,prides of lions or nomadic bachelor groups of lions and as a single animal,he wouldn't stand a chance although he would fight to the finish.
As we can see,the tiger in Africa presents the picture of an apex predator in unsuitable habitat,with unsuitable prey and unsuitable climate----tiger in lion habitat--that is what we call AN EXOTIC ALIEN
      As we can see, the tiger in Africa would remain a semi-tame animal leading a supervised existence.
And it is this same image some people want to impart to the Gir Lion and the Indian cheetah.,to justify what they are doing with the tiger in Africa,and what better idea than to have it done through iconic Indian figures?
 In these days of hidden agendas,and coercive nature politics, few things can be taken for granted.As Indians,it is our duty to guard against such ecological blackmail.

The last 3 Indian cheetahs on record were the 3 males wantonly shot dead by the Maharaja of Surguja in 1947 in Bastar, Madhya pradesh..This Maharaja also has a record of killing 1360 tigers.There is no doubt that this man was a pest,a cold-blooded murderer .But this should not be projected as applying to all Indian Maharajas.Throughout his narrative,Mr.Thapar has singled out Indian Maharajas for blame,while taking great care to avoid antagonising westerners.This is misleading and unfortunate.We must remember that even after 1000 years of rule by Maharajas,not a single species became extinct in India.The only recorded case of artificial extinction in India is that of the cheetah,and even the cheetah became extinct only after the British Raj.During the period of the Maharajas,there was no extensive deforestation,no large scale killing of wild life.Maharajas used to go on shikar, but these hunts were mostly ceremonial,a show of royal grandeur with minimal destruction of wild life except deer and pig which were meant for the pot.And these shikar ceremonies were too few and far between to make a serious impact on wildlife.The British on the otherhand,sought out and killed wildlife in the most ruthless fashion.And but for the ruler of Junagadh,the Asiatic lion would have joined the cave lion and the Barbary lion long ago.Zoological history clearly proves that large scale extinctions of wild life due to unnatural causes began with the spread of the western population over the globe.I don't know why Thapar ,Bittu and such put the entire blame on the Indian Maharajas without even a mention of the havoc wreaked by westerners.The way the Maharaja of Rewa caught,preserved and propagated the white tiger,the way the Junagadh king preserved the Asiatic lion from certain extinction,all indicate the attitude of Indian Maharajas towards wild life.Yet we find the insane king of Surguja being projected as exemplifying all Indian Maharajas.This is unfair as well as,unjust.Mr.Thapar fears that the Namibian cheetah will not be safe in India.He is right. But then is he safe?Is anyone safe?Indian democracy has failed,but if we cancel wildlife programmes for that reason,we will have to cancel every single one,for virtually all our schemes are caught up in politics.Let us fight for our wildlife.Hasn't Belinda Wright fought for our tigers?Hasn't Valmik Thapar devoted his entire life to save our tigers?They have shown us the way,let us take the lead.
Thapar and Cheetah-reintroduction in India.
On page 27,Sanctuary magazine vol 33,Thapar says'',I believe no cheetahs should be imported until we have a new system of wildlife management''.
Thapar has expressed the fear that the cheetahs ''will die in the course of these experiments.''
Contrary to earlier statements ,here Thapar has wisely used the term,''I believe''.Hence this can not be called an error.Nevertheless, if we take the number of species extinctions ,we will find that India has the best record---just one extinction,the cheetah ,in recorded history.The extinction list for Africa is quite long--the Quagga,The Barbary lion,the Scimitar-horned Oryx.......the list stretches on and on.
Extinct African Mammals (extinction during last 200--500 years)
1)Quagga 2)Bubal hartebeest 3)Cape lion 4)Blue buck 5)Cape Serval 6)Atlas Bear 7)Western Black Rhino 8)Cape wathog 9)Red Gazelle !0)Ethiopian Hyena {list is incomplete)
Extinct Indian Mammals(extinction during last 200--500 years)
1)Indian Cheetah
We can see from the above that however bad the situation in India is,it is still far better than in Africa.Hence Thapar's belief that India is unsafe for cheetah is perhaps superfluous. In India,the danger to cheetahs comes from habitat destruction,poaching,and man-animal conflicts,all of which exist in Africa as well. Majority of Indians are Hindus who believe every animal has a Soul,just like us and they respect the sanctity of life,more than anyone else.Hindus co-exist with wildlife better than anyone else except perhaps Buddhists,but they do not occur in cheetah habitat!!!
If Africa can be a second home for the tiger ,why can't India be a second home for the cheetah.?
While the entire continent of Africa is unsuitable for tiger, India atleast has some excellent cheetah country in the Northwest.And as for the danger of inbreeding,the African cheetah is in as much danger as the Gir lion if not more so.All African cheetahs living today are genetically related and a mutant virus sweeping across Africa could easily wipe out the entire cheetah population of the world.Unlike cheetahs,lions are more successful breeders and can recover from genetic bottlenecks much better,as the Gir lion as well as the Crater lions (Ngorongoro lions) have repeatedly proved..The Gir Lions as well as the crater lions recovered from the verge of extinction ,from a handful of individuals.But if ever the cheetahs of Africa suffer a similar population catastrophy, their extinction is certain. As such,political considerations should be set aside and the cheetahs should be disseminated to as many parts of the globe as possible,not only to their former range,but also to their pleistocene range(even to the prairies of North America!!if it comes to that). ,every place with grassland and gazelle or antelope.

.Although the prairies are mentioned here just to stress the urgency of cheetah dissemination,it is not entirely out of place.Although adult pronghorns might be too strong for cheetahs,they can still hunt the fawns.The fact that cheetah cubs have a much more hairy coat than adults does suggest that they might  adjust to a cold climate!!,.)Anyway pleistocene fossils tend to indicate that a giant cheetah-like animal inhabited America 10000 years back.If so perhaps the modern cheetah might well adapt to that environment,overcoming competition from coyotes and pumas.
In these days of exotic aliens,anything is possible!!!!.

Artist's depiction of the Extinct Pleistocene American cheetah.

                       Artist 's 'Depiction of Extinct American cheetah compared to modern cheetah

People who have a lot to say about Exotic Aliens in India, and who say the introduction of the Namibian cheetah in India is inadvisable due to a hundred and one reasons,have not a word to say about the introduction of the Hybrid Tiger in to Africa!!!. WHY? This is the all-important question every reader should ask himself, for the answer lies deep within  the heart of every Indian ,with in our own psyche..
 NOTE--The author wishes to thank Wikipedia,and all who have uploaded pictures in it, Also, Natgeo ,Animal Planet, And Discovery channel,for their highly educative and informative programmes .