How India’s Cheetah Disappeared, a Hunting Ally of the Mughals and a Predator of the British Raj

New Delhi: The central government told parliament this week that the Asiatic cheetah, once native to India, had become extinct mainly “due to hunting and habitat loss”. This creature was declared extinct in India in 1952.

The Indian government now plans to reintroduce the cheetah population to the country, for which the animal will be imported “on an experimental basis” from Namibia and South Africa.

India signed an agreement with Namibia on July 20 and the government told parliament that “its talks with South Africa are in the next stage”.

This is not the first attempt to import cheetahs into India. For example, there have been attempts to import cheetahs from Iran in the past and records are available that some of the former princely states had imported this animal from Africa.

Exploring the archives reveals how different conceptions of the cheetah, from an important hunting ally of India’s Mughal rulers to a less favorable view of the British Raj, have played a role in its decline .

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